Dear Mr. Anupam Kher,
I have always seen you as an above average actor. The only time you have been below average actor was the time you started speaking for the party (no matter what) you have been affiliated to (may be for publicity or some other reason). In so far, what I have analysed of your tweets on social media and interviews in print and electronic media (especially the one with Karan Thapar), is that, apart from being prejudiced and selective, you are also a less-read man (if not unread) with no analytical bent of mind and almost no tolerance. And it is better for a less-read (unread) person to stay silent than to speak what he knows not. Silent ignorance for sure, is far better than spoken-ignorance. However, I am not sure if you’re actually communal or not, at the individual level, so I consider it tenable and leave it to those who know you better than me. Nonetheless, I am quite sure that you are serving not only a communal but a hate-cause as well (may be unintentionally or intentionally) which being an artist myself (Urdu poet) disappoints me very much.
I find writing to you important, primarily because you belong to the disputed region I have lived in all my life and about which you occasionally just talk, apart from being a responsible world-citizen. One may accuse me of regionalism, but the truth is one always cares more for the people, he belongs to. I admit that I care for you and that is one reason, I suggest you to read understand and then speak on the issues you pretend to know. Taking our common birth place into account, I find you more close to me than any other a person to be written to.
My opinions of you however are neither tangential nor rhetorical; nor do they consider regionalism or any other “ism” of any sort. To make them more comprehensive and rational I intend to reason them all logically.
Let us start from your tweet about Aamir Khan’s protest, wherein you questioned his hard work and integrity. Mr Kher, being from bollywood, you should know that Aamir Khan’s contributions to the Indian society and cinema has been so great that India should be thankful to him. It is indeed disappointing that makers of India like him feel insecure to live in this country. Apart from giving a new direction to the Hindi cinema, Aamir has been a great social activist, a philanthropist and an environmentalist too. India has “made him Aamir Khan” not according to some reservation policy, but due to the kind of work he has done. If India could make Aamir Khans on its own then surely India would have made you ‘Aamir Khan’ too.
Leave aside his other contribution to the cinema, social work and environment, the work he has done in Satyamev Jayte alone is enough to differentiate between him and others in his field.
Here I am not denying the fact that India has no contribution in his making, but men and women like Aamir Khan, will be Aamir Khan, no matter which country they live in or which nationality they belong to. So we must keep in mind that not only societies make individuals but Individuals also make societies.
Mr Kher, I believe that everyone has the right to protest in a civilized way in the civilized world. Although I would never think even in the wildest of my dreams to endorse your protest, but I believe, you have the right to protest. As I personally don’t think that Chetan Bhagat should be in the field of writing, as he is not worth of it, but I also believe he has the right to write and publish. I think every sane person would agree with me here and this is tolerance.
The only man to be agitated to this idea has been you, Mr Kher; apart from the sympathizers of the party you belong to and the party of which Mrs Kher is an MP and finally the party itself. There is no doubt that, intolerance has been a phenomenon quite conspicuous in India since long. Earlier it were the Dalits alone who became prey to this intolerance, however with time, Dalits have been joined by Muslims, Sikhs and Christians and the other liberal Hindus (very few) who stand for them.
I was flabbergasted to see you protesting against the protestors, who protested against this intolerance. These people have been alleged by you and your sympathizers as politically motivated. They have also been alleged congress-agents and what not. What if they are congress-agents? What if they are anti-BJP or any other party? Does being from a particular party or community should not protest over intolerance? Do you mean that when you say, politically motivated-protests Mr Kher?
I am neither from BJP, nor from Congress. I don’t differentiate between demolition of Babri Masjid or the Sikh-massacre or the Gujarat Pogrom and the knocking down of churches. They all were the outcomes of intolerance. And they have been carried out under different parties. And sane people protested every then and now. Protesting against intolerance has neither been selective as people like you think.
Mr Kher, let us say, for the sake of argument that people did not protest in the past (it is not true). Does that mean people should not protest against intolerance forever?
Saying that there is no intolerance in India is like jeering at the coffins of Pansare, Kalburgi and Akhlaq and many others like him. The government (and people) have become so intolerant that they kill people over food habits. Is this not intolerance (encroachment into the privacy) to look into my fry pan and see what has been cooked? Is it not intolerance to kill artists for expressing their views in a civilized way? Is it not intolerance to throw ink on the faces of people for belonging to a particular political party, religion and place? Is it not intolerance to force people to marry only in a particular community? Is it not intolerance to ask students to tie a band on wrist so that they could be differentiated on cast basis? Is it not intolerance that when a Dalit touches an Idol, he is beaten to the ground? I can go on and on, but I hope you at least read newspaper if nothing else. If this is not intolerance then what else is intolerance? Have you ever taken a look into the frequency of communal riots in India? I suggest you, Mr Kher, read and study before you speak.
Undoubtedly all political parties have played the “ism-card” every then and now and has somehow kept the intolerance intact for decades, but never has been intolerance given such a patronage as has been given by the present government at the centre.
Don’t you see the MP’s sending everyone to Pakistan who is opposed to the idea of intolerance? Don’t you see them saying that “a mosque can be demolished as it is not a religious place”? Don’t you see anything Mr Kher?
It is in this context that the writers, historians, film and theatre-artists and other sane people of India both at home and abroad, protested against. They protested in their own unique possible ways- on roads, on social media, in print and electronic media etc. Some did this by returning their awards back.
And you as an artist, instead of joining them, protested against them. That is something very intolerant indeed. And in one way or the other you seem to justify, even endorse the intolerance. By opposing them you also justified somehow the murders of Pansare, Akhlaq and Kalburgi and many others (though you never accepted that).
So the only protest here, which seems to be politically motivated, was yours. To rephrase it, I must say you acted like a pawn of those who spread intolerance (may be unknowingly).
Having said that Mr Kher, I would also suggest you to read about the place you actually belong to. It was further disappointing to see you talking on TV channels, about Kashmiri Pandits and their massacre and exodus. Here again, you (although allege others of selective outrage) selectively went away with the popular, untrue, biased rhetoric.
Being a researcher on Jammu and Kashmir conflict, Mr Kher, I find it my duty to apprise you with some facts about our state, which you either wilfully ignore (bias) or you are not aware of (ignorance). Before that, however, I would like to let you know that Pandits constitute an important ingredient of our state like Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and other dwellers of Jammu and Kashmir.
They should not have become the part of the conspiracy (although unknowingly) that was hatched by the same forces of hatred and communalism which are present here outside the disputed land. Their migration is one of the saddest parts of the history of J&K. the state, indeed is incomplete without them.
But, Mr Kher, do you know the state where you were born, is the one where around 2.5 lakh Muslims were butchered by Hindus during 1947? Do you know during the last few decades how many people have been killed? For your information, the figure goes around 1.5 lakh. Do you know how many women have been raped, how many young boys are missing since decades? What kind of violence has been inflicted upon the people since ages? Do you know what happened at Kunanposhpora, Sailan, Mohra Bachhai, Chatisinghpora and other places? Did you ever bother to say anything about them? Or is it your version of tolerance to stay silent when Sikhs, Muslims and others are killed, raped and tortured? Is that tolerance Mr Kher? Or maybe you don’t know about them. If not, then you should speak only after you know.
Mr Kher, let me narrate you one incident from the valley of Kashmir, to acquaint you with the definition of tolerance. There is a village named Wussan Karhama in Kashmir which is a Muslim majority village. When the panchayat elections were held, the candidate which was unanimously chosen against all Muslims was the Pandit. That was the pre-2014 elections scenario. After 2014, J&K too has been poisoned the same way that India proper has been. I hope you are aware of the recent killing (driver) and turmoil in the name of religion in the state over beef. If not, then I once again suggest you to read. Know before you speak. Be tolerant.
Mujahid Mughal, Ph.D Scholar
Aligarh Muslim University. Aligarh
Editor’s Note: Emphasis added in the letter by highlighting it. Thanks to Mujahid Mughal. Follow this person on Facebook.