JNU is Home, Heartbreaking to See This India Today: Kabir Khan
“This is not the India my mother raised me in,” says Director Kabir Khan.
Kabir Khan, director of blockbusters like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Ek Tha Tiger, expressed his pain and trauma over the attacks in Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi on Sunday evening. Khan said that he was baffled to know that a bunch of goons entered the university and “attacked students and vandalised property with such impunity”.
You know, you wrote an article in The Indian Express where you said that when you saw those images of students coming out with their hands up in the air, it was the tipping point for you. But what we saw yesterday in JNU was another level, right?
That was also heartbreaking for me. Jamia and JNU are my home. I grew up in these places. My father was the founding professor of JNU. I grew up…I lived on that campus. Those visuals that I was seeing with the goons and the lathis, those are the roads I have played on, I cycled on, I walked on. It was heartbreaking to see that in this day and age, that a bunch of goons can just enter and just start attacking students and vandalise property with such impunity. It really makes you start to question a lot of things. If scenes of Jamia students walking with hands up was a tipping point, last night was heartbreaking for me. I was sitting there with my mother and my father’s no more. I could see the effect it was having on her. She’s 86 and…I get very emotional. It’s just heartbreaking. I couldn’t even get myself to hold her hand. I could see what she was going through. That’s not the India she brought us up in.
We saw you at the protest in Mumbai when the masses were gathering to raise their voices against CAA and NRC. What’s the risk that’s involved for you, I want to understand. Some producers do feel that when a director or an actor decides to speak up they are actually risking the money that they have put. What do you have to say about that?
I don’t think about the risk. I only think that if something is really bothering me, if this is something that’s making me pained and saddened, I need to speak about it. I need to live with myself. I need to be comfortable with what I stand for. I am not saying I’ll throw everything and you know, risk people’s lives and money and jeopardise their careers, I will not do that. But at the same time, I need to stand for what I believe. Otherwise, that’s not me and then people should not be working with me. So when I see that something which is one of the strongest pillars of the country, which is the secularism of the country which is what I believed in, I grew up in, I’m a product of. I’m a product of mixed marriage. My wife is a Hindu and I’m a Muslim by name, we both don’t really practice our religions but the point is that’s part of our legacy, our culture, our heritage and that’s the way I want my children to grow up, in the same environment where we grew up in with the best of both worlds. We were not aware of whether we are Hindu or Muslim while celebrating these festivals, we just celebrated festivals. And when I see that ethos being fractured, when I see that social fabric being torn apart, it pains me. And therefore, I’ll express it. You know, I happen to be a public figure so it gets little more attention than the next person but I do believe that we must. If we love our country, we must speak up whenever we feel that there’s something going wrong according to us in our country. And it’s not about governments. When it’s me speaking up, it’s not me going up against a government or this political party or that political party…because governments do not represent a country. Governments will come and go, our country is our country. And I feel that in a democracy we all have the right. If I am feeling pained, you’re feeling pained or anybody else is feeling pained with what’s happening in the country, then speak up. You know that’s what a democracy is about, it’s about the debate. It’s about saying that, ‘Hey I am not happy with this.’ I might be right or wrong but I have the right to express.
As you rightly said that you weren’t brought up in this kind of environment that you’re in. What’s the difference that you feel when you were growing up as a Muslim and as a Muslim today?
I just feel that religion is becoming an issue. When I was growing up, religion was not an issue, at least not in my life. For the first time, I am feeling that a lot of things are being looked through the prism of religion. Whether I am a Muslim, whether I am not a Muslim…I didn’t even think about this. I was just an Indian growing up in India. Yes, by name I am Kabir Khan, I am Muslim. I am not a practicing Muslim. As I said, my religion is part of my culture and my heritage and today I feel that too much is being made about it. Religion seems to be pervading all aspects of our life. And what is the tragic part is that it seems to be dividing much more than it did. We hear polarising statements coming from different quarters. You hear of actions that are being taken on the basis of people’s religious differences and that’s really sad because religion only needs to be in one place - in your heart and in your house. Not outside your heart and your house. The moment it starts entering politics, it’s really dangerous and it can really damage the social fabric of a country.
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