Ideally, a Hindu should begin his day with recitation of an ancient Sanskrit prayer, ‘shanti mantra’ – a hymn – seeking happiness, health, completeness, and success for all. The ‘all’ in the series of Shanti mantras, Sanskrit prayers for peace, denotes all life forms and forces that make the universe. Therefore, how can the followers of one of the most ancient religions of the world rejoice over killing of fellow human beings and still call themselves the ‘superior’ Hindus?
The question was raised by Prakash Raj, the Bengaluru-born famed actor and film director, who’s known for not mincing his words or being politically correct on the issues of basic human values. This time, however, the 52-year old actor has taken on the political bigwigs of India – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deputy BJP chief Amit Shah for their silence and tacit approval of hooliganism and mayhem let loose by the BJP’s fringe. The controversy has resonated across India.
It happened in the second week of January during the conclave of India Today in Hyderabad. Raj, who has directed blockbuster films in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannadiga, spoke of his critics and said, “They say I am anti-Hindu but I say I am anti-Modi, anti-Amit Shah and anti-Hegde.”
A studied silence fell in the hall as Krishna Sagar Rao, BJP spokesperson for Telengana, rose up in protest. Raj’s disarming argument evoked thunderous applause and made Rao sit. He said, “When you can call me anti-Hindu, I have every right to say you are not Hindu.”
He went on the explain his anger that was directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the ruling political party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah and union minister Ananth Kumar Hegde.
Raj had been in the forefront of campaign demanding justice for Journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in broad daylight by a masked gunman in Bengaluru in September 2017. Raj said he was shocked by his close friend’s murder. Lankesh was a leftist and liberal writer who, with her fearless reporting, had ruffled feathers of many influential persons and lobbies. However, when Raj found that some of the BJP activists were found celebrating her death openly on the social media, he was petrified. Next, he found that Modi was following some of those sadists on the Twitter. “This was scary,” he told a journalist person later. He expected Modi to unfollow such people after their role in celebrating a fellow human’s killing had been exposed. The PM didn’t do it and this was a choker to Raj. “My Prime Minister had failed me, the citizen,’ he said.
Raj had openly asked Modi to condemn the attack, assuming that it would be a signal to the perverse BJP activists to desist from celebrating Gauri’s murder and signal for the state to find his killer. Modi’s silence on the mystery killings of rationalists and left wing writers like Kalburgi and Lankesh continues to baffle all right minded people across India including Raj till today.
This made Raj conclude: a true Hindu cannot support such activity. He therefore had no qualms in calling Modi and Shah anti-Hindu.
His anger at Hedge, who hails from his home state Karnataka, also had a backdrop equally sinister as the one presented by Hindutva brigade. Hegde had dismissed an angry mob of dalits who were protesting outside the premises where the minister was to inaugurate a function as ‘barking dogs.’ Raj took on him on the social networking site twitter and called him anti-dalit and a serial offender. It may be recalled that Hegde, a five-time MP, had claimed BJP would delete the word ‘secular’ from the preamble of the Constitution, for which he had to later apologise in the parliament.
Prakash Raj’s boldness stands in contrast to the demurring of Bollywood biggies before the religious die hard elements. For example celebrated director producer Karan Johar had to bow before the wishes of Shiv Sena that wanted people to boycott his film featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan “Kapoor and sons” and cough up a big amount of money as donation for the party. He also had to publically declare that he would not involve a Pakistani in his future ventures. The Hindutva brigade had trolled Amir Khan after he had quoted his wife Kiran Rao as suggesting that she does not feel safe in India.
The hounding of Sanjay Leela Bhansali on his film Padmaavat (Orignally Padmavati) by the so called Senas which flourish under the Hindutva umbrella is the latest threat to the Bollywood. The ‘Karni Sena’ that spearheads this campaign, had the cheek to threaten people with beheading and limb chopping in the name of imaginary violation of honour of ‘Rajputs.’ Now Bollywood is an industry that not only makes the nation of India wield enormous soft power across the globe but also provides livelihood to lakhs of people. Prime Minister remains mum of this, once again though in Davos, he pontificated to the world business leaders, that growth of a nation has to be inclusive.
The BJP-Prakash Raj saga continues as recently in Sirini, Karnataka, the young activists of BJP had sprinkled cow’s urine on the stage where Prakash Raj had delivered his damning speech against the Hindutva brigade, to purify it!
With an obsequious national media, led by Modi Bhakt television news channels, and a civil society that feels too intimidated by the growing nuisance of the plethora of senas, dals and squad acting in the name of “Hindu-ism’– all comprising anti-social elements and enjoying direct or indirect support of the BJP leaders – Raj’s resistance is meaningful.
Raj has apparently launched a no holds barred campaign against the BJP’s Hindutva brigade for its brand of political Hindutva that has nothing in common with the philosophy of Hindu faith.
Raj took a jibe at Satyapal Singh, minister of state in the Modi cabinet, who claimed Darwin’s theory of evolution was flawed as nobody has seen apes turn into humans. Raj tweeted: our ancestors have not seen ape evolving in to man” says minister. But dear sir,…can you deny that we are witnessing…the reverse... man evolving into ape by digging the past and trying to take us back into STONE AGE...#justasking (sic).’
Prakash Raj has thus dared where many have feared to tread. Using his stardom, Raj has shown what an actor can do with his aura and the fan following and also that one does not have to cast a vote or be a politician to take a political stand. He has been speaking openly against the brand of Hindutva that BJP and its affiliates are trying to impose on majority of the Indians. He has been speaking openly against this brand of Hinduism whose proponents are not only absolutely intolerant of the non-Hindus but equally contemptuous of the normal and liberal Hindus, who don’t subscribe to their interpretation of their religion.
(Published on 29th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 05)