Fawad Khan is a Pakistani actor who has a special appearance in an Indian movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, made for screening just ahead of 2016 Diwali. It features well-known Indian actors Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai and Anushka Sharma in lead roles. Shah Rukh Khan too has a cameo appearance.
The Pakistani artiste is suddenly lucky to get loads of extra spotlight on him. He will say hearty thanks to Raj Thackeray of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena who demanded a ban on the multi-starrer and made every one look forward to the movie and know its Pakistani actor for sure. The MNS leader asked for the ban since Pakistani terrorists had been infiltrating into Indian territory and had recently made a dastardly attack on an Indian army base in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir, while the movie’s producers and many actors felt he was mixing up issues. Now that stand-off is over and the movie will hit the screens as per schedule, on a compromise struck between its producers and Raj Thackeray – and the public will never know the minute details of the deal. Let us keep out all these names and ask ourselves, “Should Indian movie makers say no to Pakistani actors, as a sign of patriotism?” A difficult question.
A sense of patriotism among any people may well up if their nation has an enemy country on which that sentiment is directed. That way, the mindless leadership of Pakistan which spurs and sponsors terrorism has kindled patriotic fervour in many other nations – more in India where Pakistan's evil men sneak in often and spread terror, death and destruction. So it is natural for most Indians to believe that when Pakistan does havoc in India, the least we may do is not allow Pakistani actors or other artistes to perform and earn in India as if all is fine between the two countries. In fact a message doing its rounds in mails and messages between friends poses a question: if artistes have nothing to do with terrorism and if singers, writers, performers, journalists, businessmen, doctors and other professionals too have nothing to do with terrorism, for whom are Indian jawans sacrificing their lives? This question, anyway, distracts us because the artistes and others it lists - when speaking in clear reference to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil which features Fawad Khan - as innocent work-minded professionals are Pakistani professionals, while our troops are battling in defence of India and Indians.
We know that the political leadership of Pakistan is a prisoner of its military leadership which has the wherewithal to train and direct terrorists. Anyhow, both of them are not accountable to Pakistani citizens. A vast majority of ordinary Pakistani people are not terrorists and are not sympathisers of terrorism. They are themselves poor victims of terrorism and ill governance. We may safely assume that Fawad Khan is not himself a supporter of terrorism. He and most citizens of Pakistan cannot openly speak against terrorism thriving in that country since they have to survive. Just as many political leaders in India's Kashmir do not come down on terrorism, and also sing plain or disguised love-songs to terrorists once in a while (but those leaders need not fear the protective Indian army patrolling Kashmir and may fearlessly deride their army – though poor Pakistanis have to fear both their army and their terrorists).
If terrorists groomed in Pakistan arrive in India and shoot and throw bombs, it is all the work of a handful of rulers in Pakistan. Those invading terrorists would have been brainwashed to go on a rampage in India. Yes, they have to be checked, caught or killed for safeguarding our people, which is a different issue. But if we ban the entry of innocent Pakistanis too in India, does it help or hinder our object in countering Pakistan’s malicious actions against India?
One of the ways of moving against Pakistan is isolating that country in the international arena. In today’s inter-dependent world, it is not easy for a country to remain in isolation, and if isolated that country is forced to check its ways to behave better with other nations. Another option for India is isolating Pakistan's leadership from its population. This is not as easily possible and can only happen slowly, but this sort of domestic isolation is not to be given up since anything short of an armed conflict in a nuclear world is always desirable. If any such domestic isolation of Pakistani leadership is to be attempted, India should act just and fair towards Pakistani citizens which alone could touch the heart of Pakistani people and make them feel shamed by their own rulers. Welcoming innocent citizens of Pakistan to work in an Indian project, subject to due cross checks and verification, is a good way to appeal to the hearts and minds of Pakistanis. Movies do it hundred times more than other collaborations. If Indian theatres are forced or threatened into not showing an Indian movie that features a Pakistani actor, that movie – and perhaps all other movies made in India – may not be screened in Pakistan or shown on their television channels, which is a greater blow to our country commercially and in other subtle ways.
An example cited in favour of banning work for Pakistani actors is USA boycotting Moscow Olympics in 1980 to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous year, and USSR keeping away from 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as a tit for tat. But there is a difference. Olympics is viewed as an event of the government of a country hosting it, and the competing sportspersons are seen as representing their respective countries. So a country boycotting an event organised by another is understandable, when their military objectives clash or when they have turbulent cross border issues. India pulling out of a SAARC Summit that was slated to be held in Islamabad within a month of the Uri attack is a right move which helped in isolating Pakistan. But disallowing Pakistani artistes to work in India’s private enterprise, i.e., movie making, or protesting the screening of an Indian movie featuring any of them does not work in our favour.
Pakistan was a part of India before the partition of August 1947, when it was created to become our neighbour. When its leadership acts against Indian interests, or disturbs our peace, India must give a firm and fitting response, and there is no doubt on that. At the same time, we must keep in place people-to-people bridges. It is like two brothers getting estranged, but one or both keeping good relations with children of the other household.
India has done it earlier with Pakistan on a historic scale, not equating the official government of Pakistan with its oppressed people. That was in 1971, when Indian troops aided Bangladesh for its liberation. Now India can put out a friendly hand to harmless Pakistani artistes, or other professionals, even as it deals resolutely with its rogue government and and its forces. It helps us too, and our disciplined defence personnel know the difference.
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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2016