Against the backdrop of the Uri attacks, which left 18 Indian military personnel dead earlier this week, sentiment against Pakistani artistes in India seems to have grown.
Social media has amplified opinions that seek the ouster of Pakistani artistes from India, on the grounds that cultural ties between the two countries cannot be maintained when one is sponsoring terrorist attacks on the other.
Raj Thackeray's Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has stepped up its strident anti-Pakistan stance, with its film wing — the Chitrapat Sena, headed by Ameya Khopkar — issuing a diktat on Friday, 23 September, to all Pakistani artistes to leave India within the next 48 hours, or face dire consequences.
On previous occasions as well, the MNS and its political rival/sibling the Shiv Sena have made their opposition to the presence of Pakistani artistes/sportspersons/intellectuals on Indian territory clear.
The debate over whether or not the cultural exchange between India and Pakistan should be affected by the border hostilities has long been a contentious one. There are strong opinions on both side of the divide; those who feel that no, regular people or artistes have nothing to do with the waging of war and should be held to a different standard, and others who believe that no sort of relationship can exist between two countries, least of all an artistic one, when they share the military history/past that we do.
As the chorus asking for Pakistani artistes to be boycotted in India rises, Firstpost reached out to Indian artistes/filmmakers and intellectuals for their take on the debate:
Rensil D’Silva, Rang De Basanti writer and director of Kurbaan: Throwing artists out of the country is not a solution
“I don’t think you should link art with politics. That’s a very volatile concept. I understand what the MNS is doing, I understand their anger. You can’t have a terrorist state attacking you while you just sit there and encourage people associated with that country. It’s time for action. India is seen as a pacifist country. Whatever happens, we go to the UN or we sit and have a dialogue. That’s not enough. There needs to be some action. At the same time, what will shooing the artistes achieve? Will we be happy after throwing out a few artistes? Will the attacks stop by doing so? The latest attacks were despicable. And then Pakistan went ahead and lauded the terrorists as martyrs. What we need is a solution. Throwing artistes out of the country is not a solution.”
Dhaval Desai, from the NGO Observer Research Foundation, which promotes a cultural exchange between India and Pakistan: Soft ties take a beating in such situations
"There's nothing new about the MNS statement.This is their stand and they are entitled to have it. Under the current situation, this is reinforcing what they are known to always believe: They have always opposed the entry of Pakistani artistes in India, especially Mumbai.
For India to achieve its full potential in the 21st century, we cannot be enemies with all our neighbouring countries. We have issues with all of them. It is in our best interest that we take efforts to better these relations. If we are to reduce the money going into military efforts and divert them into social development issues like malnutrition, education, etc it would help us grow. European countries were also at war with each other for centuries, but now with peaceful relations they have reaped the benefits.
Of course the direct support to religious extremism and terrorism must stop and our governments and armed forces are taking efforts on that end. But simultaneously, the people of both the countries also need to work towards bettering our ties.
We cannot do away with Pakistan. It is here to stay. Soft ties will take a beating during such situations, but once the tensions calm down, we must resume our efforts to improve our cultural ties."
Kailash Kher, musician and singer: Don't target the artistes
“On what is the MNS directive based? A few people are doing good work, they are showcasing their talent and you want to throw them out because Pakistan attacked us. If terrorists attacked us, how will our attacking Pakistani artistes achieve anything? It’s a political game being played out: Mar koi aur jaata hai aur roti koi aur sekta hai. Artistes are not restricted or defined by borders, they simply want to spread art and culture across the world. Don’t target them. The MNS' diktat is an act of spreading venom in the country against innocent Pakistani artistes; it is just a political game.”