Even as camera-friendly and Internet-savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi waxes eloquent on his “Beti Padhao Beti Bachao” campaign, the right-wing fringe elements openly threaten a leading actress — an inspiration and role model for thousands of young Indian girls — under his government’s nose. Modi and his government have done nothing but maintain silence, ultimately amounting to indirect approval and further encouraging these elements.
The volunteers of Shri Rajput Karni Sena had earlier physically assaulted “Padmavati” director Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of the movie. It’s deja vu as they are out on the streets again, mocking the “law and order” that Modi claims to have improved.
While the controversy around the movie may be looked at from different lenses — that of creative freedom and sentiments of a large community — Mahipal Singh Makrana, president of the Rajasthan unit of the outfit, shamed his community as well as the country when he stated that they would not hesitate to chop Deepika Padukone’s nose like Shurpanakha, a character in the “Ramayana” whose nose was chopped off by Lakshmana.
His comments show the deeply rooted patriarchal views at the core of his outfit’s thinking. It’s more than just the controversy over the movie and many would argue that the boiling “Rajput blood” of Makrana couldn’t resist a woman openly asserting her creative freedom. It’s that sick feeling when a man from the Stone Age has no heart to listen to a woman. Makrana is not the only one — our proud country is testimony to open barbs of many like him. The Prime Minister’s grooming too has been under an organisation with similar views — the RSS.
What is sad is the Prime Minister has not to put aside the motivations of his ideological parent and placed “India first” in his actions, as he does in his words.
And it is not an isolated instance, but the new order of the day. It seems just yesterday when Paresh Rawal, a BJP parliamentarian, had openly threatened Booker-winning author Arundhati Roy. Rawal had kicked up a storm by his tweet that urged violence against the much-acclaimed author of “The God of Small Things”. That was in sharp contrast to the otherwise comic personality he was thought to adorn.
In 2015, when leading writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest growing intolerance, many from the ruling dispensation, including Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, had spewed venom against them.
The Modi government, as it is today, remained a mute spectator to all of these instances.
The open threat against Deepika Padukone is in gross violation of several laws and the state’s silence over it does not augur well for any thriving democracy. The government has before it the task of taking strong measures and control these outfits if we are not to turn into a banana republic of sorts.
(Saket Suman is a Principal Correspondent at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)