BJP leader calls Shah Rukh Khan Anti-National, says Lives in India But Heart is in Pakistan
Yesterday Kailash Vijayvargiya, a BJP general secretary from Madhya Pradesh, suddenly came out of the woodworks and started gunning for Shah Rukh Khan on Twitter. “Shah Rukh Khan lives in India, but his soul is in Pakistan,” he thundered. “His films make crores here but he still thinks India to be (sic) intolerant.” Vijayvargiya went on to call the actor an “anti-nationalist”. And what triggered this tirade? In an interview on his 50th birthday on November 2, Shah Rukh had said that there was “extreme intolerance” in the country today.
“If this is not anti-nationalist, then what is it? India is making a bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations and all the anti-Indian forces including Pakistan are creating a conspiracy,” tweeted the admirable Mr Vijayvargiya.
His logic was insane. But when did Twitter trolls who foam at the mouth and gnash their teeth at their pet hate of the day care about logic and reason?
“Isn’t this treason? India is about to become a member of the United Nations Security Council. All forces opposing India including Pakistan are conspiring against it,” Mr Vijayvargiya tweeted today responding to the comments made by Mr Khan.
“Creating an atmosphere of intolerance in India is part of the conspiracy. Shah Rukh’s tune is to sing with Pakistan and these forces against India,” he wrote.
“When hundreds were killed in Bombay in 1993, then where was Shah Rukh Khan? When Mumbai 26/11 attack was where Shah Rukh?” he said.
Mr Vijayvargiya added that the whole world today “values India and its leadership”. “To talk of growing intolerance now would be weakening India before the world,” he said.
Shah Rukh Khan had joined the debate swirling around “intolerance” on Monday, his 50th birthday, when he told NDTV that there was “nothing worse than religious intolerance and that it would take India to the Dark Ages”.
“Our religion cannot be defined or showed respect to by our meat-eating habits. How banal and silly is that,” said Shah Rukh Khan, supporting the many writers, filmmakers and others who have returned awards in protest after incidents of mob attacks over rumours of beef eating and cow slaughter and killings of noted rationalist writers.
Vijayvargiya conveniently forgot the fact that Shah Rukh is by no means the only prominent person to comment on the climate of intolerance in the country. An ever-growing flotilla of writers, artistes, scientists and academics has been voicing the same concern. Of course they’ve been roundly dissed by the powers that be, but no one has as yet said that their souls are nesting in Pakistan. And then along comes Vijayvargiya, throwing that familiar and obnoxious Hindu Right shibboleth of if-you’re-Muslim-you-must-love-Pakistan at Shah Rukh Khan.
The point is that Shah Rukh loses nothing if some BJP bigot questions his patriotism and lets loose a volley of ridiculous charges against him. He’s a movie phenom, loved and idolized by millions of Indians. He’s deeply invested in the only two completely secular pan-Indian passions — Bollywood and cricket. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. And as far as trolls are concerned, I’m sure Shah Rukh abides by that excellent old saying by George Bernard Shaw: “Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and besides, the pig likes it.”
Indeed, the only purpose served by Vijayvargiya’s malevolent broadside against Shah Rukh Khan is that it’s made the BJP more embarrassed than it already is over the persistent loose cannonitis of its members. The only effect of his toxic rant against a much-loved movie star is that it constitutes yet another self-goal for the BJP, cementing its image as a party peopled with rabid Muslim haters, a party that rebuts charges of intolerance with yet more hate and intolerance.
Of course, senior leader and minister for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar was quick to condemn Vijayvargiya’s outrageous remarks. He distanced the BJP from this worthy member by declaring that he was not its spokesperson.
But this is not enough. It is not enough to cluck cluck at these comments and mouth homilies about “tolerance” and the need to preserve the “plurality” and “diversity” of our secular nation — as the Prime Minister and other senior BJP leaders have been doing lately.
The BJP has to recognise the fact that it is not being SEEN to be doing anything to contain the poisonous tide of communal rhetoric that emanates from its members almost daily. The dangerous hysteria around beef is the fallout of this. Just the other day, union minister Giriraj Singh, who was speaking ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival at a poll rally in Nalanda, said, “If Nitish forms the government in Bihar, will Bihar’s Hindus have to eat cow meat?”
Of course, that comment was completely in character. Giriraj Singh had once declared that those who were opposed to Narendra Modi should “go to Pakistan”. Incidentally, last week BJP President Amit Shah too sought to serve up the idea that anyone opposed to the BJP is in sympathy with Pakistan. At a poll rally in Bihar, Shah said that if the party were to lose the elections in the state, fire-crackers would be burst in Pakistan — in effect drawing an adversarial line between a “Hindu” BJP and a “Muslim” Pakistan.
The BJP needs to pull up its socks and clean up its act. Firm disciplinary action against a Giriraj Singh or a Yogi Adityanath or a Kailash Vijayvargiya (and really, there are many more) would go a long way in allaying the fears of those who feel that the country is losing the plot on secularism. Stoking communal fires may rouse the rabble here and there. It will not help the party in the long run.
The Hindutva hotheads in its ranks pose a clear and present danger for the BJP. It should take corrective action now. Otherwise, who knows, Kal Ho Na Ho?