Oct 1, 2016

Artistes, terrorists & aam aadmis

We've recently seen a lot of noisy debate about Pakistani artistes working in India. I feel the quality of debate has been rather low - one set of people saying 'all Pakis are our enemies' and others like Bhai saying 'artistes are not terrorists' - both rather silly ways of looking at things, trying to over-simplify a complex issue and ignoring some basic realities. I offer my two bits here.
Arnab & the patriotic brigade are asking the question 'Why can't people like Fawad Khan make a statement condemning the terror attack on Uri, when they've had so much to say about Peshawar, Paris, Orlando etc.'? I think that's a rhetorical question and the answer is rather obvious. Those attacks were terrorists vs. innocent civilians. Of course, everyone condemns that. In Uri, it was an attack on our soldiers. According to Pakistanis, the attackers are Kashmiri 'freedom fighters', and an attack by them against 'oppressive' Indian forces in Kashmir is perfectly legit. There's just NO WAY any true pakistani is going to condemn it, and it's stupid of us to expect them to.
The other argument is that we Indians condemned the terrorist attack on a school in Pak, and they should reciprocate. Again, that's comparing apples & oranges. That was terrorists vs. school-kids and teachers. But if, say, some Baloch rebels attacked & killed some Pak soldiers (and I'm sure there would've been such instances recently) - how would we Indians feel about that? Would we express sympathy & solidarity with the Pak soldiers? I'm not so sure.
It's also equally stupid for their supporters (especially some of the entitled & selfish bollywood types) to pretend their silence means nothing or offer arguments like 'they can't speak against their govt cos they're worried about the security of their loved one back in Pakistan'. This latter argument assumes that these pakistani artistes agree with us in the first place, and would speak against their govt if they could. I don't believe that is true, and some bollywood types are being too generous with the benefit of doubt, their judgment probably clouded by selfish and/or commercial interests.
Now, I'm not arguing who or what is right or wrong. Ideally - all violence is wrong and we should all condemn it. But things are complicated in the real world & shit happens. We all take sides. Let's just accept the reality that these artistes are, after all, Pakistani, and they have a certain perspective on Kashmir that we disagree with. We're not on the same side on this matter, and the difference isn't going to be reconciled anytime soon.
Once we accept that, we have to address the more pertinent question - what kind of relationship we want to have with them? Are we okay having them sing and star in our movies, and achieve success in adulation in India, knowing where they stand vis-a-vis Kashmir & other bilateral disputes? What kind of relationship do we want to have with Pakistanis in general? Let's debate THIS, and please let's do it realistically.
I, for one, am not for being friendly with Pakistanis. My father was in the Indian Army, and served in Kargil. I grew up in army cantonments. Some nice people I knew got killed for no reason I could find acceptable, and I refuse to get over it. I'm not blaming Fawad Khan. I'm not saying he's a terrorist. But he's a pakistani, and unless he says otherwise - it's fair to assume what he (and pretty much all pakistanis) feel about Kashmir & bilateral disputes with India. Their support to the other side is costing India lives, and I refuse to be friends with, or a fan of such people, and certainly don't care to offer them economic opportunities at our own cost.
Some intellectuals also try to distinguish between the Pakistani state, military and ordinary people. Some even argue for us to think of pakistani artistes or cricketers differently. I think that's mostly nonsense. Yes, all Pakistanis probably don't have the same level of animosity to India or equally dangerous intentions. But when you start discussing serious issues, there isn't much doubt which side they're on. The government is elected after all, and the military enjoys massive popularity. When push comes to shove, nearly all of them would want to hurt us, and most won't hesitate to support action that destroys us. Already, the amount of damage they've caused and continue causing on the border and through terrorist attacks in our cities is at a level a self-respecting country shouldn't tolerate. It isn't going to drop if we keep pretending everything is hunky-dory and going out of our way to be friendly with people who support it at any level.
I accept that this is a rather emotional stand, and can't defend it with purely rational arguments. There are some good liberal arguments against it. But a lot of these rational/liberal arguments would only be valid in an ideal world. We don't live in one.
Many Indians may not agree with me - each of us lies somewhere on the spectrum between idealist/pacifist and extremist/fundamentalist, some leaning one way and some the other - and this too probably varies for different issues and over time. It's ok. In fact, it's a good thing to have forces pulling in opposite directions to ensure we don't ever get carried away too far either way. We shouldn't start believing all pakistanis are bad people and our mortal enemies - that's not true. Fly Emirates often and you're sure to meet some very nice, civilized, helpful ones! We should also avoid war-mongering or any unwarranted/extreme action (especially violence) - we should remember who we are as a nation and why we're proud of it.
The people on Arnab's debates ARE going too far in one direction or the other. Let's restore some sense, please.

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