Before we get to the more demanding issue, I’d like to lay my cards on the table. I am fine with Atif Aslam and I love Fawad Khan. There, I said it.
Ostensibly as a part of its all-out campaign against the outrageous terrorist strikes on Uri, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association has banned Pakistani actors, singers and technicians from working in all Indian films “until normal relations resume between the two countries”. Honestly, this sounds like how my mom would respond to me begging for ice-cream. Dekhenge, beta. Dekhenge. So let’s not waste bandwidth in dilly-dallying and address the elephant in the room. We have officially thrown Pakistani artists out of the nation, pretty much forever.
Uri was an abomination. Seventeen families were drawn, quartered and cursed with irreversible grief forever. The subsequent surgical strikes were a fitting backlash to the conveniently myopic Pakistani Government, and the revocation of the Indus Water Treaty is a newly-materialising milestone I fervently hope India gears up and achieves. Isolation and pressure from every nook and cranny are hit-home devices against the frequent shrugs and denials they’ve offered us all along. It’s not the ‘whether’ that bothers. It’s the ‘how far’.
On 6 October, Shafaqat Amanat Ali became the first Pakistani artist to come out, ahem, and condemn the Uri attacks. Ali told a news Channel that the skewed anger generated against Pakistani actors pushed their tongues back, preventing them from taking a stance on the matter. Ali was understating. ‘Anger’ doesn’t even begin to describe what the artists went through. Fawad Khan allegedly received an open letter that epitomized hatred and abused his silence. And let’s drop the pretence- our relationship with Pakistani men are no secret. Yes, men. Hina Rabbani is beautiful.
Opinions flew like hormones. Everyone from Pahlaj Nihalani to my rickhshaw-driver spat them out like bazookas. Arnub Goswami, the Indra of turning pillow fights into World Wars, hosted a debate in which he (again) spectacularly vomited on the freedom of expression. In the midst of the pandemonium, Chulbul Pandey staged yet another intellectual suicide. I was determined to hold my own. I still have a strong, if admittedly immature stance against this tidal wave, even though my opinion superficially sounds as convenient as the silence of these artistes. I believe that it’s possible to make them get out without the hatred.
Think about it. You’re sandwiched between two low-key warring nations now in a high-key war, and your best battle move constitutes dropping a microphone. You obviously don’t like the terror attacks; they’re the reason people either cower or grimace at your Muslim name. What you don’t understand is, why everyone is suddenly using you as a punch-bag. You know you deserve a chunk of their rage; you are a Pakistani, and you do contribute to the government’s Jihaad-touting revenue. But you’d dearly appreciate it if they asked you to return to your alleys with the vaguest resemblance of courtesy. Newsflash- they don’t.
What you get instead is a misinformed Khan, a derogatory political party, a news host who would do an excellent job as your alarm clock, and tens of thousands of tweets that abuse everything from your surname to your stubble. And all this while the authorities back home shut up like they haven’t seen you in their lives. Rough day?
Adnan Sami recently condemned terrorism as a borderless threat to humanity. I couldn’t agree more with the veteran pianist. True, sending Pakistanis back is one step to isolate Pakistan. But it’s not the only way! A cymbal, while packing a powerful punch, will never shake Kumbhkaran out of slumber. If you truly want to brew Pakistan into action, try and pull out all the stops. Sever trade ties with them. Revoke the water treaty. Cancel cricket matches. Pay homage to the seventeen martyrs who sadly lie forgotten in the face of this pathetic little pseudo-resistance against the easiest baits you could find. Be true to your purpose. Discard the binary. Focus on the army, as you duly should, and not on a watered-down catfight. The actors, while providing good entertainment, don’t deserve all of the attention. And certainly none of the hatred.
No dictionary includes the defamation of the other side under the definition of solidarity. Standing by your nation is possible without giving the finger to innocent citizens of another. We are all grateful to our respective armies and always stand by their decisions, and it is for that precise reason that we must get done with this excuse for abuse and respectfully clear the bay of Pakistani inhabitants. It might be a tad solid to digest, but they are normal human beings who hate Boko Haram as much as we do. Do not put them on a hate pedestal and disregard the real heroes.