While there has been a stony silence over the radicals’ attack on Shah Rukh Khan over his statement on the growing intolerance in our country, actress-activist-parliamentarian-crusader Shabana Azmi spoke up on the subject.
“Shah Rukh Khan has merely expressed his opinion, he hasn’t broken the law, he hasn’t indulged in violence, but speaking his mind is enough for the State to post a posse of policemen outside his house!”
She sees this as fight between liberal and radical elements. “I’ve said this before. This is not a fight between Hindu and Muslim. It’s a fight between ideologies. We need to have the liberal Hindu Muslim Christian ON THE SAME SIDE against the intolerant Hindu Muslim Christian ON THE OTHER.”
Shabana recalls her own brush with intolerant elements a few years ago. “I respect Shah Rukh Khan for his fearless stand. But I’ve been called a traitor, an anti-national, a woman with Pakistani blood running in my veins by the Shiv Sena, and not a crow stood up for me.”
Shabana Azmi sees the irony in the same elements which accused her of being anti-nationalistic, coming forward to support Shah Rukh. “The same Shiv Sena is calling BJP names for calling SRK anti-national!!”
She strongly condemns radical attempts to equate the Indian Muslim with Pakistani leanings. “It is vile that there are repeated attempts to posit an Indian Muslim automatically as Pakistan loyalist. It suits Pakistan fine and you play into the hands of people like Hafiz Saeed whose raison d’etre is to fuel enmity between the two countries.”
Shabana Azmi doesn’t see intolerance as a newly acquired crisis in our country. “Intolerance has always existed and will continue to do so as long as there are human beings. It exists in pockets of the Congress, the Left and the BJP. How the intolerance is dealt with is the business of the STATE. Apni dukaan mat chalao, just deal with it in the way it should be handled in a democracy. Show that you mean business. Kehni aur karni (word and action) should be the same.”
Shabana maintains there should be an ongoing interaction between people of India and Pakistan. “Let’s not confuse the governments of both countries with their people. India must keep the pressure on the Pak govt to stop cross-border terrorism because that is non-negotiable. But people-to-people contact should continue to be strengthened because there are many elements on both sides of civil society who want peace. When you stop people to people contact you serve the cause of people like Hafiz Syed who thrive on divisiveness. Whose side do you wish to be on? That is the question that begs to be answered.”