Wednesday January 22, 2020

Naseeruddin Shah Controversy: Is He An Anti-Nationalist?

It is strange how I never thought of Naseeruddin Shah as a Muslim until now when his religious identity is being used against him to prove he is anti-national.

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Naseeruddin Shah
Why is Naseeruddin Shah under attack? (Column: Bollywood Spotlight)

It is strange how I never thought of Naseeruddin Shah as a Muslim until now when his religious identity is being used against him to prove he is anti-national.

But hang on. Why is Naseer anti-national? Because he expressed trepidation about the future of this country and, more specifically, his children.

Here is what Naseer said: “The poison has already spread. It will be very difficult to capture this djinn back in the bottle. There is complete impunity for those who take law into their own hands. In many areas we are witnessing that the death of a cow has more significance than that of a police officer. I feel anxious thinking about my children. Because they don’t have a religion. Tomorrow if a mob surrounds them and asks ‘Are you a Hindu or a Muslim’, they will have no answer. It worries me because I don’t see the situation improving anytime soon.”

I think he is pretty unique filmmaker
Naseeruddin Shah’s Controversy

I am a little lost after repeatedly reading this. Which part of the observation is anti-national? Have we all not felt the same terror grip our hearts in recent times as mobs decided to lynch alleged cattle-offenders? Or set on fire a rape victim who doesn’t withdraw her case against her offenders? Don’t we all worry about our children? Except maybe Anupam Kher, who thinks everything is hunky-dory in India today.

But you never know what will be deemed “anti-national” in today’s super-charged atmosphere of pseudo-patriotism, will you? Is it anti-national to say Vivek Oberoi playing the Prime Minister is a bit of a joke? Or is it seditious to suggest that demonetisation was a demoniacal disaster? Am I going to be branded anti-national for defending Naseer’s right to defend his family? Is it right to book him a ticket to Karachi because he spoke about his insecurities?

But I am happy to inform you that Naseer is not going anywhere. He is not wrong in feeling anxious about the future. And if he speaks up about his insecurities and is slammed for it, then isn’t it proof that he’s right in feeling insecure?

As the outspoken Swara Bhaskar said to me: “Quite simply, the attack on Naseeruddin Shah proves his point more than anything else. Intolerance is a government-approved malaise in this new Hindustan of ours.”

My dear Shabana Azmi is right in saying there should be some amount of distinction between the government and the national identity. If one criticises the government, one is not being anti-national. If one doesn’t watch Anupam Kher play Manmohan Singh, one is not pro-Congress. And if one disagrees with Mrs Kirron Kher that “The Accidental Prime Minister” (which coincidentally stars her husband) should be sent to the Oscars, one is not anti-national either.

The country is in the grip of an unprecedented culture of conformity. Everybody must love certain politicians to qualify as a true Indian. And if you have any reservations about any of the government’s policies (including reservations) you will be booked an air ticket to Pakistan. Or worse, forced to watch Vivek Oberoi play our Prime Minister on the day the film releases.

I threw away my Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mehndi Hassan CDs the day Mrs Kher declared her husband’s film Oscar-worthy without seeing it. Am I a good Indian? (Bollywood Country)

Next Story

Twitter India Finds Itself in the Midst of Another Caste Row

Some users pointed out that the official accounts of India's Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Minority Affairs were not verified on Twitter

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twitter, white swan, suicide, awareness
Twitter is a social media app that encourages short tweets and brief conversations. Pixabay

After Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey found himself in the midst of a controversy following a picture of him holding a placard saying “smash Brahminical patriarchy” went viral during his India visit last November, Twitter India finds itself in the midst of another caste row.

This time Twitter has been accused of discriminating against Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) activists.

In a statement to IANS on Tuesday, a Twitter spokesperson said the platform’s “commitment to inclusion and diversity is fundamental to who we are at Twitter and crucial to the effectiveness of our service.”

“Members of marginalised groups come to Twitter every day to express themselves, shed light on important issues, and join a community of allies,” the spokesperson added.

The row started after the account of senior columnist Dilip C. Mandal got restricted. He later got back the account. But Mandal continued the tirade against Twitter. As others joined him, flurry of tweets followed under #CasteistTwitter, #JaiBhimTwitter and #SackManishMaheswari. Manish Maheshwari is the Twitter India Managing Director.

In his tweets on November 3, Supreme Court lawyer Nitin Meshram summarised the grievances.

“What is our grievance: 1. #Twitter India is discriminating against Sc-St-OBC activists in suspending & verifying their accounts. 2. Twitter lacks uniform rules & therefore, #CasteistTwitter suppress Dalit, OBC, & Tribal activists by unequal reference to its rules.
#JaiBhimTwitter

“3. Without @verified badge, Dalit, OBC, & Tribals are not authentic in digital world. They are vulnerable to fake, fraud, & clone accounts. 4. All stalwarts of Dalits, OBCs, & Tribals are denied @verified badge, whereas, pigmies of other castes have been adorned with blue tick,” he alleged.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Denying the allegations, the Twitter spokesperson said it has “one set of Twitter Rules”.

“To make it clear, we have one set of Twitter Rules and we enforce our policies judiciously and impartially for all individuals — regardless of their political beliefs, religious ideology, professional position or background,” the spokesperson said.

“We have ongoing efforts to provide local market context when developing and enforcing our global policies. We extensively cover gender and religion (including caste) in our trainings, to provide reviewers with the local context they need to evaluate content. Our Hateful Conduct Policy prohibits behavior that targets individuals based on protected categories (including caste),” the spokesperson added.

Some users pointed out that the official accounts of India’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Minority Affairs were not verified on Twitter.

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“@TwitterIndia has not even verified Govt of India’s owned handle just because it is minority, tribal and social justice ministry,” said one user.

“As we have publicly stated on a number of occasions, our public verification process is currently closed. However, on a case-by-case basis we do verify people who are active in the public conversation on Twitter,” the Twitter spokesperson said.

“For example, we work with political parties to verify candidates, elected officials, and relevant party officials around the time of elections. We have a dedicated global process for managing these selected verifications,” the statement said, adding that Twitter has worked with various groups across India, including organisations focused on caste, to get feedback on their experience using Twitter. (IANS)