Anurag Kashyap's demand for a Narendra Modi apology is just misplaced

On Sunday, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap tweeted at Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisting that the PM should apologise for his visit to Pakistan.

Sohini Chakravorty October 17, 2016 15:19:46 IST
Anurag Kashyap's demand for a Narendra Modi apology is just misplaced

The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India on Friday had announced that movies featuring Pakistani actors will not be screened in single screen theatres in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat. This announcement came just days before the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. In a rare gesture of solidarity, the film fraternity came out in support of Karan Johar's film.

On Sunday, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap tweeted at Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisting that the prime minister apologise for his visit to Pakistan.

Let's get beyond the false equivalence being drawn by Kashyap, equating Modi's diplomatic mission with a filmmaker making a film. While Modi was in Pakistan to try an unorthodox approach to diplomacy, Johar was making a film. The difference should be more than apparent to someone as astute as Kashyap. Also consider the irony here: Had Modi's visit to Lahore resulted in a long-term thaw between the two countries that saw an increase in cultural exchanges, it's the likes of Johar and cohorts that would have profited through access to a variety of Pakistani artistes.

His rather inexplicable series of tweets was followed by another one after Kashyap quite unsurprisingly got trolled from the typical 'bhakts' and the 'non-bhakts'. He said that he complained because he has the right to question the prime minister.

Anurag Kashyaps demand for a Narendra Modi apology is just misplaced

File photo of PM Narendra Modi. AP

India has a tumultuous relationship with its neighbour, and one that has had its highs and lows. Diplomatic relations aside, every time India and Pakistan engage in a tug of war, it's been observed that its cultural and sporting ties take a beating.

After the 26 November, 2008 Mumbai attacks, India-Pakistan cricket ties reached an all-time low when none of the Pakistani cricket players were banned from the second edition of the Indian Premier League. More recently, ghazal maestro Ustad Ghulam Ali's concert was called off in Mumbai after the Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt his performance. As India-Pakistan bilateral ties went through highs and lows, the country's relations with his sports stars and artistes see-sawed.

In fact, the saffron parties have repeatedly targeted and threatened artistes not just from Pakistan, but have time and again petulantly demanded that Bollywood actors like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan leave the country when they disagreed with them. Fearing a backlash, the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India gave in to their delusional demands and it only made sense that filmmakers and actors came forward to speak against this creative embargo. Even the Indian Motion Picture Producer Association later passed a resolution urging Indian filmmakers to avoid working with Pakistani artistes until bilateral tensions between the two countries subside.

As Kashyap rightly points out that he has every right to question the government and the prime minister, however, in this case his rant is completely misplaced. After the film associations announced its decision, the Union home ministry had issued a statement that the government has no problem in issuing visas to Pakistani artistes.

"We have no problem in granting visas. If a person applies for visa and he fulfills the conditions, he gets it. It's not that we don't have to issue visa to Pakistani nationals," a home ministry official told the IANS. Why not question these film associations and the merit behind these resolutions instead of demanding apology for a move that was made in good faith. Asking the government to safeguard the interests of the film fraternity is justified, but why connect it Modi's visit to Pakistan which was one of the rare instances of India-Pakistan bonhomie.

Despite BJP's claim of having a tough Pakistan policy, the first thing Modi did after coming to power was invite his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for the swearing-in ceremony. It was seen as a step forward to thawing of strained ties made by the newly elected NDA government. Modi next surprised everyone by landing in Lahore on Sharif's birthday. As Firstpost's Ajay Singh wrote, Modi's gesture showed political maturity, far removed from his claims "Pakistan is scared of Gujarat" when he was the chief minister.

Modi's Lahore visit was not only touted to be a move forward towards conflict resolution and posed better scope for bilateral trade.

The narrative, however, changed after violence erupted in the Kashmir Valley after the encounter of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. Modi raised the issue of human rights violation in Balochistan after Sharif claimed that Kashmir is not India's internal matter. The Indian government upped the ante against Pakistan after the Uri terror attack, a clear departure from its previous stand.

Refusing to attend the Saarc meet in Islamabad and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's powerful rebuttal to Sharif at the United Nations General Assembly: "We conveyed Eid greetings to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, wished success to his cricket team, extended good wishes for his health and well being. Did all this come with pre-conditions attached? And what did we get in return? Pathankot, Bahadur Ali, and Uri."

India began Pakistan's global isolation. With the Indian Amy's surgical strikes along the Line of Control (LoC), India further managed to corner Pakistan. The strikes elicited jingoism and nationalistic hyperbole, but the Modi government commendably steered clear from indulging the war-mongers.

Banning Pakistani artistes from working in Bollywood or stopping screening of their films does not make economic sense nor does it serve in any purpose of exhibiting India's might. Pakistani artistes have worked in Indian films because of their talent and it's good for the business, it has nothing to do with what one country feels about the other. Targeting these artistes and their films is a result of the cause and effect nature of diplomatic relationships. But protesting against politicisation of  art by demanding an apology from the prime minister for an action that was a significant event in the India-Pakistan relations can only be treated as a petulant rant.

With inputs from agencies

For a counter-view, read: Anurag Kashyap has raised a valid question; Prime Minister Narendra Modi must answer

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