The Great Divide: Bollywood Split Wide Open Over Lynching

 Shabana , Renuka Speak To Subhash K Jha

 Bollywood’s  predominantly insulated attitude  to the world outside and its   insurmountable problems,  has  come crashing down, what with  eminent film personalities   spearheaded by Aparna Sen submitting a  protest letter regarding the  increasing  incidents of  mob lynching  in the  film industry.

49  of Indian cinema’s  biggest names including  Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, BinayakSen, Soumitro Chatterjee, Aparna Sen, Konkana Sen Sharma, Revathy  and  Shyam Benegal  signed  the petition pleading with the PM  to  prevent lynching  incidents.

Now in a  counter-move   61  high-profile figures  from  the Indian cinema  have signed  a letter  questioning the “selective outrage” and  “false narratives” of  those protesting against  the lynching.Among the  61 speaking out against the anti-lynching petitioners are Prasoon Joshi and Kangana Ranaut.

 Bollywood has never been so  openly political, and polarized.

 Comments Shabana  Azmi, an incurable  activist and an ardent  opponent of the Modi government’s seeming intolerance  to criticism, “Firstly to call the letter to the PM by Aparna Sen ,Ramachandra Guha ,Shyam Benegaland others a ‘Bollywood petition’ is a gross injustice to the 49 signatories who are eminent people from different disciplines .”

Shabana  feels protest is a healthy  tool of expression  in  a democracy. “I have no problem with either party writing letters to the PM . It is their democratic right. Now read and decide for yourself which group’s  language is more temperate and focusses on the issue and which group’s language is biased , accusatory and  deflects from  the issue.”

Another  strong  Bollywood voice Renuka Shahane wonders  why there is a hue and  cry over a section of  powerful voices  opposing the lynching  incidents. “Why is it such a big issue if 49 people write to their PM about something that is bothering them? What is there to be so outraged about?”

 As  for  the  61  voices which have objected  to the anti-lynching petition, Renuka feels they are constantlydefensive of   the Modi government.  “Those 61 who are outraged about the ‘selective’ outrage of the 49 have always outraged on behalf of the ruling party very selectively so it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black!”

 Renuka feels the lynching incidents must be  prevented by law.  “Ultimately any case of mob lynching on the basis of rumours be it of any person from any religion, gender, caste is totally outrageous and should be dealt with strictly. It should be a national shame for us and the accused should be dealt with strictly rather than celebrated.”

Says  Swara Bhaskar, “I think it’s commendable that 49 filmmakers have come out to speak up for the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of our society, namely those dying in horrific incidents of lynching.These incidents are  a blemish  on us all as a society.”

As for the people who have written an open letter against the petition Swara opines, “Everyone is free to voice their opinion. I do however feel that a false parallel  must not be drawn between the two letters. One speaks up for the hapless victims of these grave injustices. The other speaks to shield the powerful and perpetrators of these horrific crimes. History will see the difference.”

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