The Problem Is Not What Naseeruddin Shah Said, But What Is Happening on the Ground
Hate and abuse
This is getting not just ridiculous but sinister. We are now creating an environment where if a celebrity voices his or her concern about safety and security - issues that have become starkly real for citizens of India in the past years - (s)he will be damned, trolled, abused, and vilified.
Yes I am speaking of Naseeruddin Shah, a brilliant actor, a citizen who has always stood by India and her Constitution and her people, who is now thrown to the hyenas by the wolves for saying little more than what experts have been writing, and people experiencing, for years.
Mob rule that has placed security under a big question mark, as the lynchings and abuse have over the years confirmed again and again.
There is another Mr Actor who asks how much more freedom Shah requires. All the freedom that is guaranteed under the Constitution of India and the law. That much, and that Mr Actor is almost infinite in its expanse.
That is our vision of India: where every citizen is protected and nurtured by the Constitution of India, and participates in its making.
Freedom is not for Mr Actor and his mentors in government to determine, as it has been enshrined by the excellent document on which India rests. It is for them simply to ensure and implement without fear or favour. Whether it’s Muslims, Dalits, Brahmins, Sikhs, Christians, OBCs or Thakurs - all the citizens of diverse, dynamic, vibrant India - all have the guarantee to equal rights protected under the Fundamental Rights spelt out in the Constitution.
But then Mr Actor only belches out hate, clearly does not read, and doesn’t want others to read either.
Shah has the right to express concern about what worries him, and indeed worries many in India. Shah has spoken for himself in an interview that is moving, precise, and so warm about the India he clearly loves. See it again trolls as clearly you are so consumed with hate, that sense passes you by.
The attack on him is part of the larger design to ensure that no Muslim celebrity speaks out about what’s happening in our country, as (s)he has wide reach across the world. And so the voice must immediately be stifled before it gets out that all is not kosher, and even a Shabana Azmi has difficulty finding a house, or an Aamir Khan is worried about the security of citizens in India, just as Shah is worried about the future for his children.
Instead of giving these sentiments respect, instead of looking to see how widespread this fear and worry is, instead of redressing the problems these and other citizens for whom only India is home have been pilloried, told to get out of the country, termed traitor, anti-national and abused in an orchestrated nasty campaign designed to intimidate, and shut them up…
And the ruling party joins the tirade and chorus, with Shah becoming the latest target for the hate groups to focus on with a viciousness that makes a mockery of all that is lawful and decent.
Of course it does not help when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan jumps into the chaos, and speaks up for India’s minorities without having any authority to do so.
This has been Pakistan’s wont, ever since independence, with the sole intention of fuelling fires.
Shah has told Khan to mind his business, as any Indian citizen will do, as the ‘compassion’ is meant to weaken India by trying to divide her people.
This only feeds into the arguments of those directing Indian citizens, usually Muslims, to pack their bags and go across to that country - an insult that Muslims in India have always decried and denounced. As have all the millions in India who have more sense and understanding, and who revel in the diversity and pluralism of this country.
The problem is not in what Naseeruddin Shah has said. The problem is what is happening on the ground. The silence when mobs surround and kill on the basis of rumours, of hate. The cover up by the official machinery. The fear and insecurity that is spreading as a result.
Yes it affects every law abiding citizen, as mob rule is just not synonymous with democracy. It belittles and injures democratic institutions as the law and order machinery is compromised, reduced to bystanders, and even killed as the Bulandhshahr incident so clearly reveals. It hurts the judicial process that comes under pressure to acquit the guilty, even as the law passes into the hands of the mob. It weakens the Constitution and through the process India.
I write this as an Indian citizen - not a Hindu or Muslim or whatever - because it is still possible to do so.