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Why Is Naseeruddin Shah Under Attack ?

Subhash K . Jha

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Naseeruddin Shah

It is  strange  how I never thought  of  Naseeruddin Shah as a Muslim  until now when his  religious identity  is being used  against him to prove he is  anti-national.

But hang on. Why is Naseer anti-national? Because he expressed his trepidations about the future of this  country and  more specifically his children.

 Here  is  what Naseer said, “The poison has already spread. It will be very difficult to capture this djinn back in the bottle. There is complete impunity for those who take law into their own hands. In many areas we are witnessing that the death of a cow has more significance than that of a police officer. I feel anxious thinking about my children. Because they don’t have a religion… tomorrow if a mob surrounds them and asks ‘are you a Hindu or a Muslim?’ they will have no answer. It worries me because I don’t see the situation improving anytime soon.”

  I am a little lost after reading this  repeatedly.Which part  of the above  observation  is  anti-national?  Have we all not felt the same  terror grip our hearts in recent  times as mobs decided to lynch  alleged  cattle-offenders? Or  set  on fire a rape victim who  doesn’t withdraw her case against  her  offenders? Don’t we all worry  about our children?  Except maybe  Anupam Kher  who thinks everything is  hunky-dory in India today.

But you  never what will be deemed ‘anti-national’ in today’s  super-charged atmosphere  of pseudo-patriotism? Is   it anti-national to say  Vivek Oberoi  playing  the Prime  Minister is a bit of  a joke?  Or is  it seditious to  suggest that demonetization  was a demoniacal disaster? Am I going to be branded anti-national  for defending Naseer’s right to defend  his family? It it right to  book him a  ticket to Karachi because he spoke  about his  insecurities?

(An aside: ever since that impressively patriotic  politician decided to send  one of India’s greatest actors  to  Pakistan I have been wondering  who paid for that one-way ticket: we  the taxpayers ?Or the politician from his  own pocket? Just asking).

But  I am happy to  inform you that  Naseer is  not  going anywhere. He is not wrong in feeling anxious about the future. And if he  speaks up about his insecurities and is slammed  for  it then  isn’t it proof that he  is right in feeling insecure?

As  the  outspoken  Swara Bhaskar said to me , “Quite simply the attack on NaseeruddinShah proves  his point more than  anything else.Intolerance  is a government-approved malaise  in this new  Hindustan  of ours.”

My dear Shabana Azmi is right in saying there should be some amount of distinction between the  government and  the  national identity. If one criticizes the  government one is not  being anti-national . If one  doesn’t watch Anupam Kher play  Manmohan Singh one is  not pro-Congress. And if one  disagrees with Mrs Kirron Kher  that  The Accidental  Prime  Minister(which  coincidentally stars her husband)  should be sent  to the Oscars, one is   not anti-national either.

 The country is in the grip of an  unprecedented  culture of conformity. Everybody must love certain  politicians to qualify as  a true  Indian.And if you  have any  reservations  about any of the Govermment’s  policies(including reservations) you will be  booked an  air ticket to  Pakistan.Or worse, forced to watch Vivek Oberoi play  our Prime Minister on the day the film releases.

I threw away my  Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan  and Mehndi Hassan  CDs the day Mrs Kher  declared her  husband’s film Oscar-worthy without seeing  it.Am I  a good Indian?

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