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Pakistan - India Tensions: Culture and Art the First Casualty - A select compilation of commentary (October 2016)

24 October 2016

print version of this article print version - 24 October 2016

Pakistan - India Tensions: Culture and Art the First Casualty - A select compilation of commentary (October 2016)

1. Don’t stop the music - Sharing culture humanises India and Pakistan — banning this pushes both from peace towards war. | Salman Ahmad
2. Indo-Pak culture wars: a twisted story | Sunil Sethi
3. India: Patriotism for Dummies | Vivek Menezes
4. A neo-patriotic mob in India | Salil Tripathi
5. India: Crude jingoism - UGC prescribes students a pledge of nationalism | (Editorial, The Tribune)
6. Pak - India cultural ties | Editorial, DAWN
7. Ten commandments of patriotism, hatred and stupidity | Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
8. Surgical strikes: Are brands cashing in on nationalism in ad campaigns? | Saumya Tewari

1. Don’t stop the music - Sharing culture humanises India and Pakistan — banning this pushes both from peace towards war. | Salman Ahmad

(The Indian Express - October 19, 2016)

All of a sudden, art and cultural cooperation look like becoming a casualty in the latest confrontation between India and Pakistan. We must not let that happen.

Let’s all hit the pause button on the news for a moment and remember what we have in common. Like our Indian counterparts, Pakistani music, poetry, television and literature have acted as a bridge between generations, cultures and nations — our nations. From Madam Noor Jehan to Abida Parveen, from Mehdi Hassan to Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, from Nazia Hassan to Junoon and the present generation, artists have provided a mosaic of cultural spaces that reveal the true face, hopes and common humanity of South Asia.

But amid the ongoing tension, here’s what cross-border collaboration is up against: Pakistani artists working in India have been threatened with violence by hawkish organisations like MNS. Indian film icons Salman Khan and Om Puri have reportedly been labelled traitors for arguing to keep art and culture separate from politics. And on the Pakistani side of the border, in response to the outrage in India, the Pakistani motion picture association and PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) have threatened to stop screening Indian films and ban Indian artists from appearing in Pakistani films and TV commercials.

What the threat-makers forget is this — culture humanises what politics demonises. Banning artists, writers, actors and poets will give victory to the terrorists and extremists who don’t want people-to-people contact. They only want to create fear.

Just a few weeks ago, Om Puri was in Pakistan, promoting the Pakistani-produced film Actor In Law, which is doing record business in the country. Indian artists are embraced by Pakistanis —and it’s not just a one-way street. Indian music companies, film producers and event organisers invite Pakistani artists since it makes good business sense to do so.

I speak from personal experience. Junoon’s short music film Ghoom Tana features my Indian friends Shubha Mudgal, Naseeruddin Shah and Nandita Das. We shot this in Patiala, where my mother was born, and from where she subsequently fled during Partition. What’s more, Junoon was the first and only Pakistani rock band to perform in Srinagar, in May 2008. Performing at the edge of the Dal lake, for thousands of Kashmiri students and South Asian leaders, is one of the best memories of my life. It revealed the possibility of harmony in our subcontinent, too often rocked with violence and border tensions.

Despite the trauma of Partition, our history of conflict and the pain of the present moment, there still remains, miraculously, great love, friendship and a deep spiritual harmony between Indians and Pakistanis, elders to current generations. I know this from my own experience — so does Om Puri and every Indian and Pakistani who has a stake in a peaceful subcontinent. It’s this kind of collaboration we must protect, even as our governments drag their feet to find solutions to our most intractable conflicts.

Driving a wedge between Pakistan and India won’t just imperil artists’ collaboration. It also threatens to disrupt our common cause of improving public health. In July, as a physician, I attended an exercise in the Maldives for building a disease surveillance network in South Asia. It was attended by public health experts from seven South Asian countries. Indian and Pakistani public health experts alike are focused on mobilising a disease surveillance network. That would require better communication between the two countries — not cutting it off.

I’ve lectured and performed at Indian universities and the overwhelming message I heard from students is — more people-to-people contact, not less. In democratic nations, diverse views like these students’ are welcomed, not muzzled. There should be the same across both sides of the border — and more of it.

In the 21st century, we live in an interconnected world. Whether it’s appreciating music and film or fighting polio, the joys and sorrows of life are increasingly shared. After Partition, we have three armies, three cricket teams, two jingoistic medias and two nuclear-armed states. And it seems as if the only people who want to work together are business leaders, artists and doctors.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The circle of light can grow wider.

When Junoon played in Delhi in February at a UNESCO concert promoting peace and education, an Indian mother brought her teenaged daughter to the show. Her daughter was named “Sayonee” after our hit song, since the mother grew up on Junoon’s music. When I met them later, Sayonee told me she’s learning to play the guitar — and the solo song that inspired her name. That is the power of music across generations and barbed-wire borders. Let’s take a deep breath and remember that 60 per cent of well over a billion Indians and Pakistanis are teenagers like Sayonee.

What kind of future do we want to give them? War or peace? The choice is ours to make today.

The writer is founding member of Pakistani music group ‘Junoon’, professor of Sufi music at Queens College, New York, and a Polio Goodwill Ambassador.

2. Indo-Pak culture wars: a twisted story | Sunil Sethi

Business Standard, October 21, 2016

Surgical strikes and skirmishes don’t just occur along or beyond the LoC; they’re happening in the heart of the country’s film capital

The coincidence could hardly be more ironic: In the week that Mumbai opens its big international film festival in a painstakingly restored 100-year-old heritage building the spotlight has suddenly shifted from a showing of world cinema to a narrow bigoted cultural war. Surgical strikes and skirmishes don’t just occur along or beyond the LoC; they’re happening right here, in the heart of the country’s film capital, targeting anything or anyone remotely connected with the world of art and entertainment from across the border.
The ratcheting up of anti-Pakistan hysteria reflects several things: It exposes the soft underbelly of Mumbai’s film industry; the treacherous state of Maharashtra politics where a relatively insignificant outfit like Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and its good squad can hold it to ransom; and most dangerously, how the deeply embedded vigilantes of hyper-nationalism in the entertainment world are crawling out of the woodwork.

They’ve got everyone running scared, from the film fest organisers who hastily withdrew a rare 1959 Pakistani film with a screenplay by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the communist poet revered in both countries, to Subhash Chandra’s Zee Zindagi channel that’s replaced popular Pakistani soaps with Turkish serials.

It’s not just actors like Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan who’re required to publicly prove their nationalism each time they make a political point. Anyone who’s seen Karan Johar’s two-minute video apologia (for employing Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in his forthcoming release) that’s gone viral since Tuesday, sees not the exuberant, outspoken talent that he is but a sad, stressed-out man who’s had the stuffing knocked out of him. Writing in the film critic Nandini Ramnath compares it to one of those “victim videos released by kidnappers and terrorists.” He looks, she says, “like he is seconds away from an executioner’s dagger.”

Analysing the price of liberty amidst the wreckage of World War II in Two Cheers for Democracy, a book of essays, the humanitarian English novelist E M Forster posed a difficult question: If there is a choice between betraying your country and betraying your friend, which should you choose? His argument is to betray your country because friendship can transcend conflicts and borders that countries cannot.

Despite close-knit cultural affinities that linger nearly 70 years after a bitter divide, Indo-Pak culture wars have worn out the old fabric. Yes, there have been brief flowerings when Pakistani writers and performers have found appreciative, even adulatory, Indian audiences and work in Mumbai’s studios; the response to Indian films, TV serials and intellectuals is as great on the other side. More often, though, the exchanges have been fraught with anxiety, uncertainty and tension.

On numerous occasions the great Lata Mangeshkar was invited to Pakistan but was never able to go. It wasn’t from lack of desire on her part – after all, some of her oldest associates lived there – but Indo-Pak politics that prevented her. Imran Khan once implored her to give a charity concert in aid of the cancer hospital he was building in his mother’s memory. He promised to fill up Lahore’s largest stadium. But it was the Indian government that actively discouraged her. When the Pakistan government bestowed its highest honour, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, on Dilip Kumar in 1997, the criticism at home was so harsh he had to fly down to Delhi to seek the prime minister’s approval — luckily it was the magnanimous, well-disposed Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Travel by writers, journalists and others in either country is restricted and often closely monitored. Visas, supposedly reciprocal, are issued arbitrarily, often at the last-minute, and come tied with knotty strings. To be hosting a book launch with an eminent Pakistani at home can turn nasty as politician Sudheendra Kulkarni discovered while escorting ex-foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri last year, when Shiv Sena activists blacked his face with ink.

Many are the lit fests I’ve attended on both sides where frantic, scrambling organisers are left red-faced by “no show” guests. Asked to recommend an unusual guest for a Pakistani lit fest I suggested the well-known artist Vivan Sundaram who, that year, had produced a splendid two-volume study on the art, life and letters of his celebrated aunt Amrita Sher-Gil. Sher-Gil lived, produced her art, and died in Lahore where she was a famous figure. The idea was met with enthusiasm till it was discovered that Salman Rushdie had contributed the introduction, whereupon it was dropped like a hot potato. Just mentioning him was an apostasy, like Lord Voldemort or “He Who Must Not Be Named.”

Are we getting there ourselves when hiring a “P actor” for a small role invokes a flurry of fatwas? According to my random poll, more’s the pity because Arshad Khan, the recently-discovered blue-eyed chaiwallah from Islamabad, won’t land a top modelling contract in Mumbai now, thereby depriving India’s female population of their latest heartthrob.

3. India: Patriotism for Dummies | Vivek Menezes

(The Times of India - October 18, 2016)

Writer and disability activist, Chorao-based Salil Chaturvedi is one of the gentlest souls you could ever encounter. He was part of the original cast of the beloved children’s television programme ‘Galli Galli Sim Sim’ (the Indian version of Sesame Street). He compiled the first Konkani audiobook specifically for the blind, and (along with Goa Bird Conservation Network) likes to take blind children bird-watching. His best-known poem (described by the great novelist Amitav Ghosh as “a favourite”) is pure pleasurable whimsy. Its subject is a tree frog.

Like almost every Indian, Chaturvedi loves going to the movies. Though Panaji’s multiplex halls remain inaccessible to wheelchair users, helpful ushers carry him to a decent seat. But those fun visits seem over forever now. When the peaceful poet settled in to watch Rajnikanth’s latest blockbuster, he was viciously assaulted from behind during the national anthem. The patriotic husband-and-wife duo standing – and ostentatiously singing – in the aisle above took offence that the spinal injury victim could not rise to his feet to parade similarly belligerent nationalism. So the man hit, and the woman shouted, “why can’t he get up?!”

Chaturvedi is the son of a career military officer, but he’s still not the kind to lash back with violence. Though extremely shaken – and physically hurt - by the unprovoked attack, he simply turned around after the anthem, and asked, “why don’t you just relax? Why do you have to get into people’s faces? You don’t know the story here. You will never know”. The bellicose couple again shouted at him about standing up during the anthem, then slowly realized their error. No doubt fearing a police case, they slunk out and left.

The aftermath of this ugly, absurd incident is that Chaturvedi has not gone back to the movies. “I can’t go,” he says, “I’m afraid someone will hit me even harder, and worsen my spinal injury. I just don’t understand why it seems impossible for so many people to express patriotism in a non-aggressive manner.” Thinking hard in the aftermath of the cowardly blow, he says, “I now believe that even if I could stand up during the national anthem, I would rather not, simply because I am being forced to do so. My father is an Air Force veteran. I represented the nation in wheelchair tennis at the Australian Open. Look at my life choices! Who are you to judge how much I love India?”

Crude, virulent jingoism has spread widely in India due to a combination of factors: deeply cynical politicians; a baying television media that routinely defaults to craven or hysterical; but also very real anxieties stirred up by unprecedented social churn and runaway globalization. The end result is, just like the USA after the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks, it has recently become a requirement for Indians to clamorously declare fealty and allegiance to a highly dubious concept of nationalism, which very few people actually believe in. Here it should be noted George W Bush, of “with us, or against us” fame, is the most disgraced US president in modern history, his ostensibly patriotic preening thoroughly repudiated.

The Chaturvedi outrage in Panaji is usefully contrasted to what is happening in the USA after quarterback (the critical position in American Football, akin to strikers in soccer) Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers began to protest the national anthem by kneeling when it is performed before games. He explained, “I am not going to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of colour. To me this is bigger than football.”

Soon after he began this silent, solitary protest, Kaepernick’s team supported his right to dissent. Then many US military veterans did the same. The women’s professional soccer player, Megan Rapinoe, began to “take a knee,” followed by the entire Indiana Fever team of the WNBA. Currently, Kaepernick’s replica uniform is the highest seller in the league’s official shop, and a fairly complex nationwide national conversation is under way about the underlying causes of his actions. President Obama said, “I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”

Now imagine a cricket player in India attempting any similar protest, for any of the myriad horrific and systemic injustices that both state and society perpetuate. Consider how Goa’s true pride, defence minister Manohar Parrikar would react, considering he termed the chants of mere students “not freedom of speech, but treachery”, and told army veterans their legitimate protests were “unlike a soldier”. When Bollywood star Aamir Khan made some mild, thoughtful comments about the rise of intolerance in India leading to “a sense of insecurity” for his family, Parrikar threatened, “if anyone speaks like this, he has to be taught a lesson of his life.”

Salil Chaturvedi has the sanest analysis. He says, “Is this why we fought the colonialists? Did we get our freedom only to become sheep, and that too led by the most sinister, manipulative brutes among us? I will not participate in this sham.”

(The writer is a photographer and widely published columnist)

4. A neo-patriotic mob in India | Salil Tripathi

(livemint - Oct 20 2016)

Indian surgical strikes are now directed at weeding out Pakistani cultural exports across the Indian landscape, or arresting Pakistani pigeons and balloons

In 1959, a Pakistani film-maker called Akhtar Kardar directed a film called Jago Hua Savera (The Day Shall Dawn), which brought together creative film-making talent across the Indian subcontinent the way it used to before Independence in 1947, and which is now fast becoming unimaginable.

The film was shot on location in what was then East Pakistan and what is now Bangladesh. The great Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz wrote the screenplay based on a story by India’s Manik Bandopadhyay. India’s Tripti Mitra acted in it with Pakistani stars; India’s Timir Baran composed the music.

The film tells the story of a poor fishing community near Dhaka. It was influenced by neo-realism, as were several other films in the post-independence era. It revealed the misery of that community, where the location, the language, the religion, and the geography were all marginal to the human condition and drama, which knew no boundaries. The film has recently been restored and shown internationally. It was to be shown at the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image film festival opening today (20 October). But in view of the “current situation”, a euphemistic description for the war hysteria and patriotic fervour in India, the organizers have dropped the film.

Indian surgical strikes are now directed at weeding out Pakistani cultural exports across the Indian landscape, or arresting Pakistani pigeons and balloons. The film producers’ association doesn’t want film-makers to cast Pakistanis in Indian films, or to use Pakistani technicians. The film theatre owners’ and exhibitors’ association has told its members not to screen films with Pakistani stars. This would affect Karan Johar’s film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which is scheduled for Diwali release a week from now.

The industry is divided. One film-maker, Vivek Agnihotri, wants Pakistani actors to say at least a few words condemning terrorism, as if that would do anything to rein in cross-border terrorism. Another film-maker, Anurag Kashyap, admirably steps out to bat for Johar and questions the unfairness of critics who want Johar to apologize for making a film with a Pakistani actor, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was visiting Pakistan at the same time the film was being made.

The neo-patriotic mob that’s remarkably swift in defending Modi, began abusing Kashyap. The Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, observed on Twitter: “A new fashion has developed in India. A student or a film person can put a question or speak against PM without any logic to get into news.” He got a fitting response online from someone who goes by the name of @brumbyOz: “Around the world this fashion is known as democracy.”

In democracies, people do ask their leaders questions, and the communication with the leader is not stage-managed, but a two-way street; it is a dialogue, not a monologue.

Meanwhile, Johar saw the writing on the wall and said he wouldn’t cast Pakistani actors in future in his films.

The attack at the army camp in Uri was tragic and suggested intelligence failure. A swift response from the Indian armed forces was inevitable. And yet, the way the incidents have been projected and exploited for political ends indicates a dangerous trajectory in Indian political discourse, with the neo-patriots insisting that the army and the political leadership should not be questioned. It makes India more like Pakistan, as the Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif argued in a fine piece in The New York Times earlier this week.

Retired officers fulminate on loud TV channels, a TV anchor dons a flak jacket and surveys a “theatre of war” as though one has been declared, another anchor’s shouting is so loud, it is as if he wants his voice to be heard in Pakistan without the aid of television sets and satellites, and the defence minister credits the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s teachings for the success of the Indian Army. Meanwhile, clashes and skirmishes continue at the Line of Control.

The neo-patriotic foot soldiers are doing their best to cut the ties that could bind the two nations. After cricketers and ghazal singers, it is now film-makers and technicians from Pakistan who can’t play or perform in India. These are the real consequences of such pseudo-nationalism. It plays into the more cynical game many politicians, clerics and religious leaders, government officials and commanders want—which is to restrict contact between Indians and Pakistanis within that elite group which has the most to lose if people from the two countries were to meet one another socially and discover how similar they are. Indeed, most Indians and Pakistanis meet each other in third countries, often accidentally, and are surprised by their commonalities. To be sure, there is much that divides them, but perish the thought of letting people discover what unites them.

By preventing people-to-people contacts—through culture, trade, travel, sports, and the arts—each side demonizes the other. In the 1980s, when Pakistani businessmen asked the Zia-ul-Haq administration why they weren’t allowed to trade with India more freely, an official frankly told them: “We don’t want a fifth column in Pakistan.” Trade and cultural links build on commonalities, and that’s what the pseudo-nationalists fear.

So long as the narrative is under their control, that day shall not dawn.

Salil Tripathi is a writer based in London.

5. India: Crude jingoism - UGC prescribes students a pledge of nationalism (Editorial, The Tribune)

(The Tribune - October 21, 2016)


The question mark on citizens’ nationalist credentials, hitherto limited to minority communities, is being made to expand its scope. In a first, the UGC has sent a note to the affiliated universities and colleges asking students to take a security pledge on October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. On that day, declared as the National Unity Day since 2014, 30 million students have been asked to read the pledge, “I dedicate myself to preserve the unity, integrity and security of the nation and also strive hard to spread this message…in the spirit of unification of my country…” The note also asks the universities and colleges to invite freedom fighters to their campuses to talk about nationalism.

While the pledge is not mandatory, the UGC has asked the universities to keep the Human Resource Development Ministry posted on their events and programmes. Already incidents of virulent jingoism are becoming a challenge to maintaining one’s sanity in these days when patriotic hysteria is sweeping the land. The latest one is from Goa. Salil Chaturvedi, a celebrated poet, author and disability activist, was assaulted by a couple seated behind him at a cinema hall for not standing up when the national anthem was played. He could not stand because of his disability caused by a spine injury. Son of an Air Force veteran, Salil Chaturvedi represented the nation in wheelchair tennis at Australian Open.

The mistrust of people’s natural love for their country is allowed to spread without check, to breed dubious patriots, who are tearing into the country’s democratic traditions and healthy societal values. Chaturvedi need not trumpet his patriotism, nor do the college and university students. Demanding proof of nationalism is taking jingoism to an absurd new level. The force-feeding of nationalism can have the opposite effect. The well-meaning UGC pledge must remain optional. Elements with patriotic pretensions must be taught a lesson if they try to take away liberties guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

6. Pak - India cultural ties | Editorial, DAWN

(Dawn - October 21, 2016)

IF any illustration were needed of the extreme pressure that India’s right-wing lobby is exerting on citizens to link patriotism with hawkishly anti-Pakistan sentiments, one has only to turn to the video released earlier this week by Karan Johar. With it, he broke the silence that he had so far maintained over the controversy that erupted over his upcoming film, a big-budget multi-starrer that counts amongst its cast Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. Mr Johar is a giant in a cinema industry that is amongst the world’s largest. That even he has been bullied into stating that in future he will refrain from engaging talent from the neighbouring country speaks volumes for how the citizens’ loyalty is being questioned. In the tensions that flared following the attack in Uri in September, cultural ties and representatives on both sides of the border have been prominent casualties. In India, a cacophony of voices has called for the expulsion of Pakistani artists; even the few big names that dared present reasonable views have been hauled over the coals .Unfortunately, in Pakistan, matters have been taken to an equally, if not more, damaging juncture. Cinema owners have decided to halt the screening of Indian films, while on Wednesday, Pemra, the electronic media regulator, imposed a complete ban on Indian content being aired on television and radio (which was otherwise legal as long as the limit of 6pc of airtime was not breached). With this move, the state has now entered a phase where the fallout of soured relations is affecting the softest of targets ie cultural ties.

It bears repeating that in precisely such innocuous, mutually beneficial exchanges lies the path to eventual normalisation. That both countries have allowed those who would take the fight further to dominate the narrative is regrettable in the extreme. This pattern must be made to change, for without that, ie without better sense prevailing, any softening of stance at the level of the state will be of short duration.

7. Ten commandments of patriotism, hatred and stupidity| Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

(Kashmir Times, 16 October 2016)

In a season of jingoism, stupidity with generous doses of intolerance and not patriotism rules the roost. There is a limit to nonsense churned up in the name of nationalism and it is time to flag some erroneous notions with respect to patriotism and loyalty to the country and the nation. These have been constructed like the ten commandments that must be obeyed or else warrant the risk of being branded anti-national with self styled patriots baying for blood of the defiant or atleast an unconditional apology. These commandments with some ’unpatriotic’ questions are:

Rule Number 1: Army is the symbol of patriotism and nobody can question them and their actions or politicise them. (The only exception can be the ruling BJP which can appropriate the valour of the army to put up posters ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh. So is it already Jai Jawan to Jai Modi and would the next step be Jai Bhagwat, much like Nazi Gemany’s ’Hail Hitler’?)

Rule Number 2: All army personnel, serving or retired, must be held above the board and everything else will be held subservient to their honour and their respect. (Exceptions to this rule can be considered, as in the case of a serving Air Force personnel, whose father Akhlaq was done to death in Dadri a year ago and whose murderer was draped in tricolor and given a farewell with honours after he died in jail. There is no clarity on who decides which soldier must be kept out of this circle of respect)

Rule Number 3: Silence is golden. Hence no questions will be asked if the ruling party’s political gurus in RSS have decided what construes as nationalistic duty and what is seditious. (They will let the nation know by sending their hooligans in every nook and corner, beating and marauding whoever they think are desh-drohis on any pretext anything under the sun)

Rule Number 4: Media anchors must loyally carry forward the propaganda war by not allowing dissenters to speak on their television channels, abusing them if required, even showing them the door. Media houses should prove their loyalty by signing off with "Jai Hind", turning their studios into ’War rooms’ or the more liberal ones can put up statements saying that they will not allow any anti-national views to be aired and their anchors must make it a point to profess their patriotism in every show by saying how much they respect and admire the army. (Patriotism is the new form of professionalism where journalist should don a new avatar from a watch-dog to a toy dog)

Rule Number 5: Enemy’s enemy is our friend. So, there will be nation-wide euphoria when Pakistani journalists like Cyril Almeida get into trouble with their own State and figure in the no-fly list for criticizing Pakistan, while Indian State and its loyalist media will continue to justify a similar no-fly list for civil society activists like Priya Pillai and Khurram Parvez. Gags by Pakistan on its media and intellectuals will naturally be opposed as part of this commandment as a measure of patriotic duty but there will be abject silence when newspapers are banned in Kashmir Valley. (Kashmir will be a special case where gagging is ultra-patriotic, if not democratic, even if its special status must be opposed as part of the nationalistic duty).

Rule Number 6: While Indian actors like Nawaz-u-Din are booted out of Ram Lila at the behest of Shiv Sena for being Muslims, instead of speaking for them, the Bollywood film personalities will be encouraged to eulogise only the army actions (for their own survival and for selling their films without any hindrance) and not for seeking independence of cultural spaces from hatred and war. (In times of war, no time or space must be wasted to speak up for secular traditions. These must be forsaken in times of war as well as no war, especially in times of propaganda war that we live in at present)

Rule Number 7: Juxtaposed with Rule Number 6, the highest tribute to nationalism will be to oppose films that seek to suggest healthy cultural ties between India and Pakistan or ones that cast Pakistani actors. In that respect, our Enemy No:1 would be Fawad Khan (and not Pakistan Army General Raheel Sharif) and Target No: 1 would be Karan Johar’s forthcoming Ae Dil Hai Mushqil where the lead female stars are playing Pakistani characters. Such cultural invasion should be treated as the biggest security threat and all cultural and social ties would be snapped. (Only trade benefitting some business houses will continue because that is sheer business).

Rule Number 8: Our measure of nationalism is our hate for Pakistan and everything Pakistani because no Pakistani has shown the compassion by condemning the Uri attack killing 19 Indian soldiers enough even though they condemned Paris attacks; and Indians so genuinely shared the grief of Peshawar school attack. (It is besides the point if there are any known cases of any nation openly grieving the soldiers’ death count of another country, leave alone one that in a season of madness is being deemed an enemy. It is also nobody’s concern to grapple with the fact why civilian casualties in terror attacks across the world evoke far greater sympathy, even outrage, than soldiers killed in Uri, Afghanistan, Iraq, even Pakistan or elsewhere in the world.)

Rule Number 9: Speak up for the rights of the suppressed people of Balochistan but justify the battering of tribals, people of north-east and particularly Kashmiris. The latter could be Islamic radicals or terrorists or supporters of Pakistan. Only Balochis are victims.

Rule Number 10: Those who do not obediently abide by the above 9 rules should be publicly condemned, boycotted and branded anti-national; and they must be strictly dealt with. If cases of sedition cannot be applied, they should be heckled and bullied in public, even beaten and lynched by the desh-bhakts of the RSS, who need no certificate of patriotism.

The dangers of such misplaced concepts of patriotism that come with all the chest thumping and bullying for conforming to certain diktats cannot be understated. India is not a military dictatorship but a democratic country. Military, like other professions must get its due respect and dignity, but cannot be the sole symbol of the nation’s pride or patriotism. While the valour and courage of the soldiers must be recognized and eulogized, military actions and wisdom have to be subject to scrutiny by public. The greatest symbol of pride in this country is the lofty constitution itself which gives the power to the public to hold the State and its various wings accountable. Territorial integrity of the country and its sovereignty is crucial and must be saved but sense of patriotism must be inspired by the basic ethos of Indian democracy and the lofty values enshrined in the constitution, not by trampling these. The Indian constitution is based on values of equality, liberty, liberalism, secularism and tolerance which are far greater matters of pride, and for which the world looks up to India, than military might. In the neighbourhood, India has been a source of inspiration not because of its size, its so-called military prowess or its contested burgeoning economy but for the strength and stability of its democracy whose fountainhead lies in the constitution. The dangers with this present discourse of sense of patriotism nurtured by hatred, intolerance and sheer stupidity is that it is contradictory to and hampers the very values that make this country great.

The other danger is to force on the people of the sub-continent an unwanted war. The war has already begun -of propaganda, lies and trivializing important issues by invoking threat to national security. But the rules of the game can change from cussed words to far more devastating one, with just one shot of a missile or just the press of a button. The choice is before the Indian nation. Does it really want to stick to the ideals that are so dear to this country or does it want to immerse itself in sheer stupidity?

8. Surgical strikes: Are brands cashing in on nationalism in ad campaigns? | Saumya Tewari

(Live Mint October 21, 2016)

While brands latching on to topical subjects are not new in advertising, but experts feel that sensitive issues such as national security must be handled with care

An increasing number of brands such as Hero Motocorp have incorporated the national pride theme or feature soldiers in their communication ever since India’s surgical strikes against Pakistani terrorists across the Line of Control (LoC) happened on 29 September. Photo: Bloomberg
An increasing number of brands such as Hero Motocorp have incorporated the national pride theme or feature soldiers in their communication ever since India’s surgical strikes against Pakistani terrorists across the Line of Control (LoC) happened on 29 September. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Weeks after India’s 29 September anti-terror surgical strikes, the festive season is seeing a growing number of firms highlight national pride in advertisement campaigns, being rewarded when handled sensitively but facing a backlash if seen as opportunistic.

In the former group is Bajaj Auto, which recently rolled out the second leg of its campaign for V, the motorcycle that is made from the metal body of the warship INS Vikrant used in the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The film features Rear Admiral S.K. Gupta, a Mahavir Chakra winner, who served aboard the INS Vikrant, asking: Why should the mind evoke national pride only on select days of the year?

Online furniture marketplace, Pepperfry, has also been running a festive Diwali campaign, Iss Diwali Kuch Badal Ke Dekhiye with one of the ad-spots showing how a junior officer gets a wooden cupboard as a Diwali gift.

Hero MotoCorp was probably the first to instantly tweet a video campaign featuring armed forces personnel being saluted by civilians.

Sumeet Narang, vice-president, marketing, Bajaj Auto, said his is not an opportunistic campaign: “We have been working on it since May. The genesis of this ad came from consumers’ response who felt proud everyday riding a product which has a piece of Indian history. For them, it is way to give a daily salute to the soldiers of this country.”

According to Rahul Nangia, joint national creative director, Law and Kenneth Saatchi and Saatchi, who made the Pepperfry Diwali ads, the idea behind featuring armymen is to look beyond the usual settings of a furniture brand ad. “We have tried to find newer characters, outside the home setting, where fresher dynamics between people can exist,” he said.

Experts said sensitive issues such as national security must be handled with care, with attempts by some brands to leverage the buzz around surgical strikes failing miserably and attracting criticism.

Delhi-based fast food outlet Burger Singh announced a 20% discount on its items to mark the surgical strikes. But the discount was withdrawn after it was slammed on social media. Online mobile recharge platform MobiKwik offered 20% cashback with a special code “ISTSTRIKE”. It too had to withdraw the offer after scathing attacks on social media. “Being contextual and being opportunistic aren’t too distant from each other if not calibrated properly, especially when it is about taking a slightly exalted position by choosing a subject like patriotism. The brand’s stature and past association on similar issues always plays an important role,” said Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India.

“MotoCorp does it but not all brands will get that benefit because Brand ‘Hero’ has done more than its bit in the past to earn that credibility,” noted Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India.

Dabas observation is reflective of how some brands’ attempt to leverage the buzz around surgical strikes has failed miserably, attracting criticism.

Uday Mohan, managing partner, north and east India, Havas Media, thinks that when it comes to sensitive issues, right creative execution is crucial. There should be no sensationalism of the issue and there has to be a creative synergy between the brand message and the communication.

Saurabh Uboweja, chief executive and chief brand strategist, Brands of Desire, believes brands have a Herculean task in trying to leverage topical sensitive subjects. If done wrong, brands can come across as opportunist.

“Not everyone takes to such campaigns positively unless the brand proposition being communicated or the communication itself is authentic, has a deeper purpose and is believable or relatable. Like in the Bajaj V campaign, they have developed a complete brand identity around INS Vikrant, taking a long-term view on patriotism. It’s a choice the brands have made between short-term brand recall and long-term equity creation,” he added.


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