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Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone, the highest paid female bollywood actress, standing on 5th January with the JNU students who were brutally attacked by masked assailants, without speaking a word, was one of the strongest protests against the CAA and NRC/NPR. Her silence was more powerful than the mesmerizing speeches of PM Narendra Modi. The Indian express editorial on 10th January lauded the stand taken by Deepika. “Her presence itself was eloquent testimony to a fundamental shift in the relationship between the film industry and society at large, generational as much as political”, wrote the editorial.  

Dr. Raghuram Rajan, the former RBI Governor, deeply appreciated the audacious act of Deepika. Without naming Ms Padukone, he said despite putting her latest movie "Chhapaak" at risk, the actress "inspires us all to take stock of what is truly at stake."

The Times of India editorial on January 11, under the title, “Where women lead: Deepika Padukone stands with students”, praised Deepika and other film stars, who supported the protests or joined the protests. “Many other women stand out – like Sonam K Ahuja, Sonakshi Sinha, Taapsee Pannu. They appear to be leading the men. Moreover, given their star power, they may have done more for the civil rights cause than all the opposition parties combined”, wrote the editorial.

Some of the detractors of Deepika accused her action as a publicity stunt for her film ‘Chhapaak’ that was to be released on 11th January. In fact, Deepika took a great risk for the sake of justice and the sacred values enshrined in the Indian Constitution. She took the risk of being branded as ‘antinational’, ‘ tukda tukda gang’, ‘ Gadhaar’ etc. She had to face brutal trolling and political threat, besides the business repercussions.  The heroine should stay in Mumbai and dance, said Madhya Pradesh’s leader of opposition. Union minister Smriti Irani, stated that Deepika had gone to stand with people “who wanted the destruction of India”. Padukone could be dropped from government-linked promotional campaigns, as the BJP government is highly vindictive. The goli maro gang called for a boycott of her movie, Chhapaak.

The BJP government is vigorously implementing the policies of RSS to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. The CAA and the NRC/NPR combo is one of the closest steps to the realization of Hindu Rashtra. According to the ideologues of Hindutva, VD Savarkar and MS Golwalkar, Muslims, Christians and Communists are the internal enemies of the Hindu Rashtra. In the Hindu Rashtra, as envisaged by RSS-BJP combine, Muslims and Christians have to either become Hindus or remain in India as stateless people without any privileges and rights, including the citizenship right. The CAA in combination with NRC is a crude attempt to make millions of Muslims stateless. The next target could be Christians. This is the time to stand up and oppose the nefarious policies of the BJP and RSS by all Indians, especially the minorities.

The people of India, especially the youth of the nation, have seen the danger at the doorstep and realized that if they keep quiet at this juncture the nation will be disfigured and divided by the fascist forces. That is why they have taken to the streets with determination and courage. They are profusely using the national flag, national anthem and the constitution of India, the visible symbols of nationalism. The BJP and RSS are deeply worried that nationalism that has been kept so far, as their monopoly, is being snatched away by the protesters. The anxiety of the BJP is expressed by the threatening statements of its leaders. Home Minister Amit Shah while speaking at a rally in Jabalpur on 12th January said that those who raise anti-national slogans will be sent to jail. He knows very well that the protesters are not raising anti-national slogans, but they are using the national symbols. This is also a warning to the protesters to be vigilant because miscreants may enter the protest venue and raise anti-national slogans. The miscreants could be saved by the police and the protesters could be accused and put behind the bars.

The determination of the people is seen in continuous protests in different parts of India. Delhi's Shaheen Bagh has seen a protest against CAA for almost a month. People of different faiths came together on Sunday, 12th January, to participate in a '' sarva dharma sambhava'' – a  multi-faith prayer ceremony – at Shaheen Bagh. The inter-faith ceremony, consisted of traditional Hindu-style " hawan" and chants of Sikh " kirtan", followed by reading out the Preamble of the Constitution and taking an oath to preserve its "socialist, secular" values. Portions from the Gita, the Bible and the Quran were read and Gurbani held. People are protesting by showcasing the pluralistic heritage of India to the rulers who are making all efforts to demolish it. The elderly women who participate in the protest deserve the salute of the people of India. Women are in the forefront of this protest from the very beginning. The resolve of the protesters gives the impression of a second freedom struggle.

One of the most powerful voices of the Bollywood against the CAA is that of Anurag Kashyap, director and producer. He returned to the social media platform which he had quit a few months ago. “I think I got back to Twitter because I was just so angry when I saw the violence on students of Jamia Millia in December, when police went on rampage inside the library and lobbed tear gas shells on the campus and no one was saying anything. I had been made vulnerable a few times before, and had retreated from Twitter, but this time the anger was so much that I threw away the fear”, says Kashyap. Since then he has been bombarding with his sharp criticism of the powers behind the violence on the protesters. “Speaking up is important… Dissent should not have to be an act of courage…Earlier we dissented but we also knew we had a constitution, Supreme Court and police. Now it is not so. Everyone is colluding, sense of justice has eroded”, he says.  He showed the audacity to say that the Prime Minister should show his birth certificate, along with that of his father and his entire family to the nation and only then could he ask for papers from citizens.

The courage of the women at Shaheen Bag and the boldness of the Bolywood stars, including that of Deepika and Anurag Kashyap, vindicate that the fear that had engulfed the people of India since 2014 is being defeated. They all deserve to be called prophets because they have shown the characteristics of a prophet: conviction, courage and compassion. They have protested not because somebody has instigated them, as the BJP alleges. They are intelligent people who have the capacity to observe, analyze and find out the hidden agenda. They are courageous because they are prepared to accept the consequences of their actions. What has driven them to take risky actions is their compassion towards the people who are being discriminated and targeted. They have no political ambition of capturing power or remaining in power or gaining any economic advantage.

The followers of Jesus have a great responsibility to exercise their prophetic role at this juncture. With regard to the core values of Jesus, one cannot be neutral. Being neutral in the present scenario of India is the worst expression of cowardice. The prophets in the Old Testament and the prophets of New Testament, John the Baptist and Jesus, raised their voice against injustice and untruth. Excluding a particular group of people from citizenship in the name of religion is injustice. In the absence of a categorical statement by the government that no NRC will be undertaken, the propaganda that CAA is harmless is untruth. As Jesus always took the side of the excluded and the discriminated, the followers of Jesus have to stand with the Muslim community and struggle with them for their rights and human dignity. Otherwise the followers of Jesus will be failing in their mission and their faithfulness to their Guru.

The Archbishop Bengaluru deserves appreciation for the prophetic stand he has taken. Archbishop Rev Peter Machado spoke out against the controversial CAA. In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Governor of Karnataka Vajubhai Vala, the Archbishop said that religion should never be the criterion for granting citizenship, and asked the government to change course if necessary for the good of the country and the people.

The Church in India cannot remain silent and neutral if it has to be faithful to Jesus and his mission. It has to respond to the current situation in India. The protests that are taking place in India are not led by any political party, but by the people, particularly the youth. The Church has to join the movement to safeguard the constitution and its core values of secularism, justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. It may take the following steps.

First of all, taking inspiration from the prophetic act of the Archbishop of Bengaluru, heads of all Regional Bishops’ Councils, and the CRI (Conference of Religious of India) shall issue statements rejecting the CAA and appeal to the Prime Minister and the President of India to withdraw the discriminatory and divisive law.

Secondly, the priests, religious and the laity, especially the youth, are to be encouraged to join the protests along with the students and the other Civil Society Organizations.

Thirdly, it has to launch a movement on a war footing within its institutions and organizations to promote the values of the Indian Constitution. At the beginning of 2019, I attended two meetings in which retired Supreme Court Justice, Kurian Joseph, was the main speaker. He told the audience that the core values enshrined in the preamble of the Indian Constitution are nothing but the values of the Kingdom of God. Hence the Christians have a bounden duty to practice and promote these values.

As per the website of CBCI Office for Education and Culture, there are 54,937 Catholic educational institutions with 26,96,850 teachers and staff and 5.19 core students. Lakhs of students are leaving the portals of its educational institutions every year after completing their studies. How far has the Church succeeded in imparting the Kingdom values of Jesus and instilling in the students the core values of the Indian Constitution? How many of them could the Church make the disciples of Jesus, who practice the core values of Jesus? If the Church has been faithful to the teachings of Jesus and imparted the constitutional values to the students of its educational institutions, the situation of India would have been different. Let the members of the Church, especially those who are the heads of the educational institutions, wake up and respond to the call of mother India.

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 20th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 04)