12 - 18 Dec, 2015

“It is safer to be a cow in India than to be a Muslim,” said Indian Congress leader Shashi Tharoor while speaking at a parliament session recently.
Modi government has been under severe criticism from different circles, especially the Indian opposition over rising incidents of intolerance and hatred in the country.
In his speech, Mr. Tharoor accused Modi of encouraging intolerance, communal hatred and minority security in the country while saying, “You can’t promote ‘Make in India’ abroad while there is still ‘Hate in India’.”
Vice President of Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi has also been vocal about growing intolerance and showed his concern while speaking to a full house of members at a parliament’s session.
He spoke about the safety of Muslims, especially those who are serving at important posts in defence institutions. He cited the example of M. Akhlaq, father of an Indian Air Force pilot M. Sartaj, who got killed in cold blood only for being a Muslim and demanded Prime Minister Modi to take note of brutalities of his party workers.
“The Prime Minister talks about economic growth and progress and at the same time his colleagues talk about sending Bollywood stars to Pakistan. Let’s not do that. Till date our strength has been our tolerance where we give our people the space to talk,” said Rahul Gandhi in support of some Bollywood Muslim stars who have been under severe attack by Shiv Sena.
Top actors, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan were accused of being unpatriotic after suggesting Hindu-majority India was becoming more intolerant, with members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leading the onslaught.
Aamir Khan, one of the highest grossing Bollywood actors of all time, provoked a furious response when he said that a sense of “insecurity” and “fear” was gripping India. Aamir, who like many Bollywood stars is a Muslim, also revealed that his Hindu wife had even questioned whether the couple should leave the country. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain warned Aamir that it was “not all right to malign” India and told the actor, “Don’t forget, India made you a star.”
Television footage showed dozens of activists burning posters of Aamir in several Indian cities, while police protection at his Mumbai home was upgraded and social media was awash with criticism of the star.
The 50 year old was the latest high profile figure from the world of arts to raise concerns about religious and cultural intolerance since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected last year.

However, after two days, the actor clarified that neither him nor his wife Kiran, have any intention of leaving the country as he is proud to be an Indian.
The brand ambassador of 'Incredible India' campaign also said that he is proud to be an Indian national and does not need anyone's permission to prove his Indianness.
A week after Aamir Khan spoke about the growing intolerance in the country, Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan has said that one does not need to prove his patriotism, according to IBN.
Extending a hand of support to Aamir, he also said that he will now be addressing only those issues on which he has detailed knowledge, reported
“You don't have to be proving your patriotism in any other way, except for thinking good for the country and doing good. You have to work for the benefit of the country. If I work for the country in the kindest way in what I am good at, my country is going to benefit from that. But if I am corrupt, and regional about it, I will be harming my country,” the report said, quoting Shah Rukh.
Shah Rukh also claimed that even a generic statement can be turned radical by people. “Twitter and social media is about free voice, people do take very radical steps, they get abusive,” he added.
Shah Rukh Khan sparked a similar furore earlier in November when he referred to “extreme intolerance in India” after the lynching of a Muslim man in October over rumours that he had eaten beef.
Senior BJP leader, Kailash Vijayvargiya accused Shah Rukh, one of India’s most recognisable actors, of being “anti-nationalist” and said the actor’s “soul is in Pakistan” in a series of tweets he later retracted.
It is not the first time that Shiv Sena is involved in anti-Muslim atrocities. In the past as well, the party had been in the limelight for its anti-Muslim sentiments, attacking and targeting Muslim artistes working in Bollywood.
Similarly, former actress, and now the Human Resource Minister of India, Smriti Irani rebuffed Aamir’s and Shah Rukh’s stance on intolerance in India and defends Modi and his party’s policies by saying, “I am a living example of PM Modi’s tolerance... he forgave me, though I publicly attacked him.”
Smriti went on to say, “Aamir is the brand ambassador of tourism in our country and that is what is incredible, that he can be brand ambassador for our government, for one of our initiatives and the same time he can be on a platform in front of the I&B ministry of the country and speak his mind. I won’t get into what individually his family felt. It is his right to express that. So I feel that we are tolerant enough that people are speaking out and it is an indication of a thriving free speech in our country.
Whatever the stance of Indian ministers, the outburst of Shiv Sena and BJP in response to Aamir’s statements regarding his insecurities, has shown the real mindset that is working behind maligning the Muslim force, working day and night for an incredible India.
Let’s blame it on the fabric with which the Indian diaspora is weaved of. Extremism, anti-Muslim atrocities, intolerance have always been present in Indian traditions be it demolition of Babri Masjid by Hindu nationalist groups and riots that followed the incident, Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujrat or recent cold-blooded murder of a Muslim man on eating beef, history has so much to offer on Hindu extremism towards Muslims.
And the most recent spate of Indian Muslim Bollywood elite with Shiv Sena politicians is a matter that everybody is talking about. But it is not the first time Muslim artistes have been under fire. In the past as well, there have been examples of Muslim artistes (including Shakeel Siddiqui, Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Ghulam Ali) being the target of criticism of Hindu extremist groups who do not want peace to prevail between the two nations.
In this context let’s not forget the recent support of Congress President, Rahul Gandhi. He tweeted: “Instead of branding all those who question the Govt & Modiji – as unpatriotic, anti national or 'motivated', the Govt would do better to reach out to people to understand what’s disturbing them. That’s the way to solve problems in India – not by bullying, threatening & abusing!”
And it seems that someone has knocked some sense into Modi’s head for he has come up with a truce talk sensing the gravity of the situation. His statement, “No one can doubt the patriotism of 1.25 billion Indians, nor does anyone need to give any proof of his patriotism every day,” undoubtedly refers to Indian Muslims, whose patriotism, according to them is often questioned.
The Indian Prime Minister has finally come out with a brief, but significant statement seeking to halt the deteriorating social situation, affecting the peace and harmony in the country. Modi exhorted the people to rise above issues of religion and sects and look for opportunities to be united. It was the tacit acknowledgement of a certain degree of intolerance in the society, a fact admitted by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu in the parliament.
On the same day, Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement that the BJP-led “government will not allow intolerance in any circumstances” indicates that the government has taken cognizance of the situation. The government’s warning to BJP MPs against giving provocative statements vindicates the critics’ and opposition’s point that there is a sense of intolerance at local and national levels.
But the BJPs allegation that the opposition is taking advantage of the situation is naïve, given the fact that some legislators belonging to the ruling party have behaved in a divisive manner despite them being representatives of the people. The gravity of the situation was well observed by India’s President Pranab Mukherjee when he said that the “real dirt of India lies not in our streets, but in our minds and in our unwillingness to let go of views that divide society into them and us, and pure and impure.”
The BJP needs to rein in some of its MPs and also take nationwide steps to eliminate the tense atmosphere in the country. Otherwise, it will fail to achieve Prime Minister Modi’s developmental agenda. The party and the prime minister have taken the first step in the right direction. India must save its unity in diversity.

Get rewarded for slapping Aamir
In a troubling development, the Punjab chapter of Indian far-right political group Shiv Sena announced a cash reward of INR 100,000 for “anyone who slaps” Aamir Khan over his recent remarks on ‘intolerance’ in India, said a report published on the Hindustan Times.
The bizarre announcement was made during a protest staged by Shiv Sena activists outside a hotel where Aamir Khan is staying for shooting his upcoming movie Dangal.
During the protest, Shiv Sena activists used derogatory language against the actor and burnt his photographs.
The report quoted the party’s Punjab chairman Rajeev Tandon, who was leading the protesters as saying: “Any person who slaps Aamir Khan would be rewarded INR 100,000 by our organisation. This is important because no one living in our country should dare to say anything against India.
“Anyone from the hotel staff to the crew can slap him and take the reward,” he was quoted as saying.
Aamir Khan’s security was beefed up following the announcement by the Shiv Sena leader. The Hindustan Times quoted Ludhiana assistant commissioner of police Rupinder Kaur Saran as saying that a contingent of police had been deployed where the actor was staying, which was keeping a “close watch” on the situation.
Aamir Khan recently said that he has been “alarmed and shaken” by the number of incidents related to extremism in India.

Plummeting cricket diplomacy

The Englishman’s game is what the citizenry bleeds to and when it comes to an India-Pakistan spin-off, the essence of the game fires up to a completely different level. But the recent events between the two neighbours and the role that the game has to play has spread a new wave of uneasiness between the two countries.
According to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) the two were to play six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023, starting with Pakistan’s home series in December.
However, the talks were downright dejected by the fundamentalist Hindu right-wing party Shiv Sena, members of whom stormed the BCCI headquarters in October where a meeting of the two counterparts was being held – Shahryar Khan from Pakistan and Shashank Manohar, representing BCCI. It was in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium where party activists stormed the gates of the BCCI office demanding immediate return of the Pakistani delegation, chanting slogans alongside and claiming that they won’t let the series to materialise.
Swaying from the signed agreement, the Indian side, violated the MoU. What is mind-boggling is the stance that the PCB has maintained. It seems our side is adamant for the series to be held despite the humiliation the delegation had to face.
Recently, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) intervened to play the role of a facilitator to minimise the deadlock. The two counterparts in November met in the UAE and what happened in the talks is mostly left to speculation. “It was a fruitful discussion, but I need to ask our government, while [BCCI chief Shashank] Manohar will ask his government before taking any decision,” Shaharyar told reporters on his return from Dubai where the meeting took place.
The BCCI wants Pakistan to play in India, which Pakistan is not ready to agree with for they want the Indian team to play in the UAE. So far no middle ground has been reached except for the fact that Sri Lanka is being considered where three ODIs and two T20 internationals might be played.
What is startling is that despite failed talks once, followed by a mum stance on the other, why is the PCB so willing to play against the rivals across the border?


Shiv Sena takes a jibe at the recent display of ‘tolerance’

In a sarcastic take on Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif's hand shake on sidelines of the climate summit in Paris, the Shiv Sena said the Prime Minister has displayed huge tolerance by shaking hands with his Pakistani counterpart.
Modi and Sharif had a brief meeting in Paris on the sidelines of the UN climate summit during which they warmly held hands before sitting down for a chat amidst frosty ties between the two neighbours. “Modi has shown huge tolerance by shaking hands with Sharif. Even if the other (party) raises hand, we should fold ours. This is our tolerance and Modi has displayed it,” an editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamna said.
The editorial further said that “now nobody has to leave the country on the pretext that there is an atmosphere of intolerance. The country is on the right mode and Modi’s critics should remember that.”

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