The boycott against Bollywood film PK is really a boycott of the spirit of inquiry. It’s a campaign of the unthinking and frankly, it is symptomatic of larger problems.
I had recently posted a link to an article on my facebook timeline that showcased the problem of radicalisation of Muslim youth in India. A friend of mine was quick to react stating that radicalisation is as much a problem among the Hindus as well, so one could argue that minority radicalisation is an anti thesis rather than the thesis itself. This conversation occurred just moments after I watched the movie PK, which some relatives were designating as Anti Hindu. Honestly, it is so frustrating.
If I speak about the problems within the Hindu community, the right wing nut jobs jump on me calling me a pseudo secularist. If, on the other hand, if I express my concerns regarding a socio economic dynamic of the Muslim community, then I am a Hindu fundamentalist and anti minority. The fact that the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar validate the State’s preposterous and unforgivable response to the Shah Bano verdict and Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, and yet challenge the ban on Wendy Doninger’s book, make it even worse for the genuine secularists. But that is not the point. All this scrutiny over who I criticise begs a larger question.
Why are we so insecure?! Have we honestly come to this point where we feel the shortcomings in our religions are beyond scrutiny and introspection? If so, it is the greatest defeat of the human spirit and the most crippling onslaught to the memories of the religious founders, who in fact questioned their status quo, leading to the faiths, which are now ironically the instruments for suppressing intellectual rebellion and spirit of inquiry.
As a cartoon I read once put it brilliantly, a Muslim cleric tells two terrorists, “You are not going to like this lads. I have decided we are going back to Old Islamic values of tolerance, art and science, leading the field in medicine and architecture”. To me, a significant portion of middle eastern history involves the Islam that exemplified these values and today world over, across religions, these values are being abandoned. For the record, while I am familiar that the kings of ancient India like the Guptas too encouraged free speech and debate, I couldn’t find an equally hilarious cartoon expressing it and it is for that reason that I am not quoting a cartoon to express the equally noble fundamentals of Hindu Philosophy.
However, in today’s scenario, every time we wish to point out a worrying trend in a sector of human society, the quality of the criticism is established only if the author first clarifies that he is against decadence in every religion. No matter how legitimate and substantial the author’s critique is, he has to first demonstrate that he is just as critical of every other shortcoming in human society. It saddens me that our sense of reflection and introspection is lost to such insecurities and that the quality of ideas matter less now, than the credibility of the person espousing them.
So lets cut the crap, shall we? If anything, my work as a lawyer has taught me that human suffering knows no religion or faith. A survivor of sexual violence, regardless of religion, shares a similar tale of an onslaught on her autonomy and the story of her recovery is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit and it doesn’t matter if she is Hindu or Muslim or Christian. But I am ashamed of what humanity is becoming, insecure, closed to learning, complete absence of introspection and overly defensive, instead of sufficiently reflective.
PK is not a dig at Hinduism. On the contrary, it is a dig at how we use every religion as tools to perpetrate all kinds of injustices. There isn’t anything wrong in the holy texts because they are what they are, ideas expressed in black and white. But there is something certainly wrong when Asaram Bapu uses these texts to brutally abuse the trust placed in him. There is something wrong when Anjeem Chowdhary shamelessly justifies the beheading of hostages by ISIS by citing the Holy Quran. There is something absolutely wrong when the Bible is used to shun homosexuality and question the legitimacy of their emotions. How dare we blame religion when our actions reflect the poverty of our choices?!
PK is a dig at us and its time we stopped laughing and paid attention to our abandon of our humanity.