There is an intense argument going on in the expat Indian community. While I have played my hand on taking sides in the past, I have now arrived at a situation when I would like to watch the fun from a neutral position. Nothing wrong with that, right ?
This intense argument is about the subject of intolerance that seems to be a raging subject matter of discussion on the TV Channels of India. There is just too many talk shows going on, to the extent that even BBC wrote about it recently. You can read it on BBC Coverage. There are many other articles.
The highly educated expats have seen that in the past 20 months India has “tried to change itself”, probably for the betterment of its aspiring society. The more than five decades of Congress rule was seen as a period when India lost its supremacy in many fields – the quality of life deteriorated, corruption reigned supreme, politicians ran amok all over the citizenry, etc., etc., There is that anger in many people that a generation of hard working folks did not see any benefits – nothing ever improved in society. Even the opposition BJP government which came into power in the late Nineties lost its steam and lost the subsequent elections.
After all these years of economic and societal mismanagement, the opportunity for India to regain its lost sheen arose when Mr. Narendra Modi won the 2014 Elections and came to power. The dethroning of the Congress government was widely celebrated, not just in India but abroad by the Indian expat community.
While there was initial euphoria and some good progress in the first year, the momentum is getting lost due to the non-cooperation of the Congress Party to pass bills in the Upper House of the Parliament thereby derailing the much needed reforms. Apart from that, there is growing disquiet on the subject of “intolerance” and the silence of Mr. Modi and his ministers to rebut the arguments of other political parties has added fuel to fire.
When celebrities jump into the intolerance discourse, then things get worse, and that is what happened when Amir Khan, the famous Bollywood actor, did so recently. He may or may not be correct, but it is very important for the government to take an “official” stand on such matters of critical importance to the society.
I saw numerous WhatsApp messages for and against Amir Khan. I also witnessed several discussions amongst friends. But I chose to remain neutral and not get drawn into one or the other side, simply because I was able to visualize matters with clarity when I stayed neutral. My analysis runs as follows: it is very important for society to air its views and it is not unusual for celebrities to take a stand. However, that in itself, is not something which would sway the overall public opinion. Many people tend to keep their views to themselves and do not wish to share with anyone. For the people who are in someways affected by real incidents of intolerance (like in any other serious matter), all the arguments are meaningless as they have lost something. They are not looking for any celebrity’s support. It does not matter to them.
What would matter to them is the strong support of the local and federal government – ministers and officials. The law of the land should reign supreme and take actions as appropriate even in a suo moto fashion by the judiciary, in case the government does not act. Politics and ideologies should be put aside when there is a matter as significant as this trying to derail all the good work of the government. Immediate, strong and forceful intervention by the government, especially by the Prime Minister, would go a very long way in assuaging the negative feelings of people affected by “intolerant incidents”, and recover lost ground quickly.
This is not about “political support” or “damage to the image of India”. This is about correcting the wrongs in society and changing its attitude for the better. It is not about tackling any celebrity. It is not about Amir Khan and his wife, or their views about leaving India. This is about the new emerging society of India trying to find its rightful place in the world.
I guess that the expats have to think along these lines instead of aligning themselves one way or the other in support or against Amir Khan. I always have thought that the Indian diaspora is the most intelligent, hard working, apolitical, economically driven group in the world – but when they try to get political outside their motherland, that is not a good sign. It is OK to be against one or the other party, but when there are substantive issues to be discussed, the allegiance to any one party cannot take precedence to intelligent viewpoint and contribution.
Well, that is my view and anyone is free to contest, of course.
28th November 2015