Deepika, Faiz & CAA: India Embraces Dissent & Debate Again
Deepika Padukone and India pass the ‘Chhapaak test’ and show that dissent and debate are alive.
Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma, Vivek Gupta
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge…
The amazing poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Deepika Padukone’s brave film Chhapaak about an acid attack survivor and the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests that are refusing to die down; all of this is telling us that Yeh Jo India Hai Na... something here has just changed. Here, in India, the battle of ideology is not over! In fact, it has reignited like never before. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
Can Deepika Padukone turn up at the JNU campus and stand next to student leader Kanhaiya Kumar or not? Or does that make her a part of the 'tukde tudke gang'? And because of that should you boycott her film as a sign of 'patriotism'? Or does she have every right to do what she did support any cause she chooses, so long as she does it peacefully?
Look at the hashtags that started trending – #ISupportDeepika #BoycottChhapaak #ChhapaakDekhoTapaakSe #TaxFreeChhapaak #DeepikaBoycottDebate. These are clearly not one-sided. Clearly her visit to JNU has stirred a debate. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
Dissent is Alive!
Also, the fact that an A-List Bollywood star not thinking of negative publicity, not fearful of falling foul of the government, shows that dissent is alive!
Not just Deepika, other entertainment industry biggies like Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akhtar, Kabir Khan, Kamal Haasan, Naseeruddin Shah and several, several others have spoken up. Riding on the momentum created by thousands of unknown but fearless students and citizens from across India. These stars are now adding to the counter-argument about the kind of India – an inclusive India, that they believe should be reclaimed from those subscribing to a majoritarian notion of India.
In an interesting linking of two related debates, people backing Deepika are saying ‘Hum Dekhenge’, ‘Hum Chhapaak Dekhenge’ and are not being shouted down by trolls, not being scared away by armed gundas intimidating fans at cinema halls. While there is Smriti Irani being critical of Deepika’s visit to JNU and she has every right to do that, there are many fully supporting Deepika as well. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
Singing ‘Hum Dekhenge’ Doesn’t Make One Anti-India
In fact, let's look at the debate around Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s iconic song ‘Hum Dekhenge’. Let’s look at the lyrics one more time:
Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge…
Does singing this song make me 'anti-india' in any way? Why can't a celebrated poet from Pakistan inspire secular protesters on the streets of India without them being called anti-national? Some time back, I would have been shouted down. But today, those singing this song at multiple protests are not being arrested for sedition anymore.
Our home minister may still be saying that CAA is here to stay, but equally emphatically, those against CAA are also having their say. Clearly it is a debate that is not settled. It is alive. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
Compare India’s Map in 2018 and 2020
Let’s take a look at India’s map. The first, India’s map in March 2018 where almost the entire country is covered in saffron State after state ruled by the BJP or a coalition involving the BJP. Twenty months later, the map looks very different. In January 2020, the saffron has shrunk dramatically. That unidimensional map is being redrawn.
If you put this map through the ‘Chhapaak test’ too, you will find some states who have declared the film tax-free and some that have not. Those punishing Deepika for going to JNU and those who are not.
But the point to be noted, milord, an alternate ideology has, at least, regained some space on India’s map. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
Interestingly, the widespread people’s protests have galvanised India’s political class as well. Not just the Opposition, even the BJP’s allies have been speaking in a different voice. Yes, CAA saw little political opposition. But on NRC, politicians all the way up to the prime minister are having to rethink. BJP allies – Akali Dal, JD(U) and LJP have said no to NRC. AIADMK, Naveen Patnaik’s BJD have also moved away from NRC. The Shiv Sena after walking out of the NDA, is backing peaceful protests. Uddhav Thackeray has clearly gone 'woke’, seriously diluting the Sena’s previously known anti-Muslim stance. Mamata Banerjee is back where she likes to be – leading protests on the streets!
What was a monolithic Modi fandom is now again a refreshing cacophony of diverse political voices. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
Yeh Jo India Hai Na... Here majoritarianism has not yet uprooted secularism. Authoritarianism has not been able to boot out democratic values. Dissent, debate, diversity have reclaimed a lot of the space that they were losing. In India’s universities and college campuses, in India’s maidans, in the big metros and in the smallest towns... India is once again in a churn, once again trying to figure itself out. And that is healthy, democratic, as it should be.
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