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Sharma & Shaikh

Sharma & Shaikh

Rabble rousers peppered around our national landscapes, who see everything only through Hindu/Muslim or national/anti-national prism, were silenced for a while after two related news from Jammu and Kashmir on a single day. The news helped to torpedo the communal narrative they have been pumping incessantly for decades now.

The first was about Sandeep Kumar Sharma, a resident of Muzaffarnagar, nabbed by the Jammu and Kashmir police. Sharma is accused of being part of a Lashkar-e-Taiba module. Cops allege that he looted ATM machines and worked with other LeT terrorists during three terror operations.

Hours after Sharma’s arrest, came the news that the heroics of a bus driver from Gujarat saved around 50 Amarnath pilgrims from being massacred by terrorists. As a result, when bodies of the yatris arrived on July 11, the mood in the state with a long history of communal strife was sombre. Unlike 2002, only effigies were burnt.

Fellow passenger of the seven pilgrims killed in J&K narrated to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani the courageous tale of the driver: As terrorists sprayed bullets on the yatris, the man from Gujarat's Valsad showed exemplary grit and presence of mind by driving non-stop through unfamiliar hilly terrain, even as bus owner Harsh Desai collapsed beside him, hit by three bullets. “He kept on driving for two kilometres and stopped only after reaching the military camp,” Desai said. “Had it not been for the driver, all would have been killed,” said 55-year-old yatri Pallavi Abhayankar. The bus carried more than 50 pilgrims.

“The terrorists kept on firing non-stop from the front. I decided to keep on driving until we reached a safe place and ducked to avoid getting hit. God gave me strength to save their lives,” was all that Salim Shaikh would say. Thank God that Shaikh was not burnt alive in the 2002 riots.

Reaction of Troll-Harassed

On the morning of July 11, many people routinely confronted by Hindutva hatemongers on Twitter were overactive in condemning the terrorist attack on Amarnath pilgrims unequivocally. Picking up a cue from former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s overnight tweet, most of them used ‘#NotInMyName’ in their tweets.

It made sense for Abdullah to use the hashtag as the terrorists presumably do such things in the name of Kashmiris and he was a mainstream politician in Kashmir fighting terrorists and secessionists alike. In the process he has had to draw a fine line to condemn excesses committed by the state too, so that the people in his state would not lose faith in the political and democratic system.

But why should Indians living in any other part of the country say ‘Not In My Name’ to terrorists killing 7 Amarnath pilgrims? By no stretch of imagination can one expect the terrorists to claim that it was done on behalf of Indians, irrespective of their political affiliation or faith. The killings reflected so poorly on even terrorists that no group has dared to claim credit for it so far.  

I guess the extraordinary tweets from several Indians was the result of their fear of Hindutva hatemongers and trolls who regularly portray those who criticise them as supporters of secessionists and terrorists, among several other things.

While it is a simple fact that extremists feed off each other in every part of the world, several rightminded people seemed to have fallen into the trap set by these hatemongering trolls who constantly taunt them and went out of the way to demonstrate that they disapprove terrorism.

This was followed by a hurriedly-convened gathering of people at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for another ‘Not In My Name’ protest, where several ordinary Muslims braved the rain to make it clear that they condemned the killing of innocent Hindu pilgrims by terrorists in J&K.

The first ‘Not In My Name’ protest at Jantar Mantar made sense because cow vigilantes have been claiming that they were carrying out the lynchings as sacred duty toward the motherland and 100 crore Hindus of the country. It was to set the record straight that several citizens gathered at Jantar Mantar to make it clear that the vigilantes did not have their sanction for lynching people. And it took this protest for the man who vowed to end India’s ‘Pink Revolution’, while he was seeking votes in 2014, to condemn Junaid’s lynching.

Kerala’s D Company

An incessant campaign by Malayalam news channels competing for eyeballs and determination of a few top police officials seem to have broken the nexus between politicians and the Malayalam film industry, at least for now.

One often gets to hear about lobbies and cabals in the film industry even in Hollywood. In India, the Hindi film industry has been known for its underworld connections and people have some idea about the murky affairs in the Tamil film industry thanks to some stars becoming politicians. But news from the Kerala film industry suggests that screen heroes are as depraved, immoral, corrupt and debauched as the underworld.

Three-time National Film Award winner for best actress, Sharada, who had her biggest successes in Malayalam films despite being a Telugu star, once said that she liked the Malayalam film industry best for the fraternal feeling it had at the shooting sets. Every menial worker to superstar had the same food together on the sets. It was something like the legendary Mahabali regime. Several of Sharada’s contemporaries have credited Prem Nazir, who holds the Guinness Book of World Records for maximum appearances as hero, for creating such an atmosphere.

What a tragedy then that every part of the same film industry is now controlled by two ‘super heroes’ and a go-between arrested on accusations of hiring someone to molest a fellow star!

The ‘superheroes’ tried to isolate the victim but are now trying to insulate themselves by distancing from the actor who has been arrested. Worse, even before the trial has begun, one of the superheroes has said that Dileep has been expelled from various organsiations “since it has been proved” that he was behind the molestation. Would you believe that the superhero who said this was once a lawyer?

Kissa Kursi Ka Days

A documentary on economist Amartya Sen has been stalled by the Film Certification board because director Suman Ghosh was not ready to beep out some words in Sen’s speeches that were reproduced in the documentary. They include, ‘cow’, ‘Gujarat’, ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu Nation’.

In another development, the Mumbai Police has slapped a case for a meme, which had a picture of a man at a railway station who resembles Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the caption ‘wanderlust’. It looks like we are back to 1975.

(Published on 17th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 29)