I expect a political storm over Leila, a six-part TV serial on Netflix, the first season of which went on air last week.
The serial which has Huma Qureshi as the central character is Hinduphobic and foresees India becoming a totalitarian regime, priming itself for a genocide in the name of purification, a throwback to Adolf Hitler and his “purification” drive of ethnic cleansing which caused World War II. (Even the greeting—Jai Aryavarta—a la “Heil Hitler” is uncannily similar.)
It’s a frontal attack with no punches pulled. The clock is set on 2047, exactly 100 years since India’s independence. India has been replaced by Aryavarta, as “Bharat” was known in holy Hindu texts. Its’ a totalitarian, repressive regime: The show begins with the lynching of a Muslim man and poops drop at every stage to establish “love jihad”, “ghar wapsi,” “suit-boot” persona of its authoritarian head, the degrading conditions in Doosh (Dalit) camps etc.
The serial, directed by Deepa Mehta, is based on a work of Prayaag Akbar who deserves an introduction of his own. The young writer was once deputy editor of Scroll as well as a writer for Caravan, the two news outlets with the stench of Left. His lineage is even more interesting: Prayaag is son of MJ Akbar and unlike his father who swung from Congress to BJP with a straight face, the son has ventured too far into the Hinduphobic drain to have any possibility of “purification” in future.
There is no point picking holes in Prayaag’s work. It’s a free world, you have the licence of artistic freedom and the vehicle, Netflix, is free from local censor. You know exactly your audience as well as your funders, that media outlets and film critics of this ecosystem who would only unsheathe their pens in praise. You are turned into an icon by this system who can spot a peddler and his potential from a mile. May be this was his intention from the outset.
I say so because the serial lacks conviction in every next frame. Script is too convenient: the protagonist could will herself at 3-4 different places in a matter of a night in her quest to be at Commercial Centre in the morning. Surveillance always fails; frisking is always lax, the bosses are dumb idiots as the protagonist waltz from one room to another, one computer to another, her manager an accomplice hidden in plain sight. But how does it matter as long as you could stoke fears of an approaching fascist Hindu nation, overriding logic, reason, decency and all this without looking into a true mirror which reflects your dishonest self.
Let me put a writer-bucket challenge for Prayaag. The year is 2070, exactly 1500 years to Prophet Muhammad’s birth, peace be upon him. The Muslim world constitutes 90 per cent of humanity—not by repression or war but by the message of his piety, love for all. The prophet comes into dream of every Muslim on earth at a certain hour, minute and second of the night. How would you depict Prophet Muhammad? Would you dare give this role to any human actor?
No, you won’t. You can’t Prayaag. Nobody has dared so in hundreds of centuries: I hope it sobers you down to the orchestrated praise on your courage which is coming your way. I can even ask you on an easier script: Ever heard of Tughlaq or Aurangzeb; Khilji or Tipu Sultan? How about putting your creative juices at work on these subjects?
Everyone knows that chances of a dystopian Hindu regime in future is lesser than your car running on air. I mean in a country where you can’t even chant Jai Shri Ram or include “Veer” ahead of Savarkar or even vaguely mention “Hindi” as a link language, forget about Ram Temple, abolition of 370 and 35A, triple talaq etc, where army is independent, how would it come about. Who would burn up the Constitution? And what do you think forces in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and United States etc, who might have invested in your project and who you might see as your investment in fame and money, would react? Let India be taken up by a totalitarian regime?
In showing India as a dystopian state in the making, Prayaag Akbar has insulted the wisdom and resilience of a 1.30 billion people. The fibre of our democracy. The basic tenet of peace and ahimsa which made “Aryavarta” never seek to invade, rape, kill or usurp countries. If he is looking for such traits, he would find aplenty in Islam and Christianity. To show a country which has suffered like no other nation in 1000 years as a monster-in-making is sin—and let Prayaag deciper it in whichever religion he follows. As for millions of Hindus, we are still under repression, by tools other than war. In the liberal world, they call it artistic licence. And a warning to Hindus: You just can’t drop your guard for the enemy is committed.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Delhi has little control in Kashmir Valley. Out of 87 seats in assembly, 46 are reserved for Kashmir region and 37 for Jammu (Ladakh has the other four seats). No wonder Abdullahs and Muftis, due to their clout in the Valley, control the levers of power in the troublesome state of Jammu & Kashmir.
This of course is historical injustice. Dogras (Jammu) have dominated the region historically. Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh amassed a state bigger than left behind by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler in the 19th century. Till 1941, Hindus in Jammu numbered more than Muslims in Kashmir Valley.
However, Kashmir changed forever once Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah rose to power simultaneously in Delhi and Srinagar. Nehru afforded Abdullah a free run. Abdullah arbitrarily allocated 75 assembly seats in the 1951 state assembly between Kashmir Valley (43), Jammu (30) and Ladakh (2). There was no population data but just his whim to guide Abdullah.
Jammu and Kashmir had changed forever.
Abdullah’s son, Farooq, made it worse. His father had constituted the Delimitation Commission which had further increased Kashmir’s representation to 46 seats, as against 37 to Jammu. Farooq amended the Section 47 of the Jammu & Kashmir constitution in 2002 under which no addition or alteration of constituencies could take place up to 2026.
Game, set and match over.
Fast forward to present times. Modi 2.0 is in place. His party BJP rose to power, among others, on the promise of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in its manifesto. Nationalism and his tough stance on separatist forces in Jammu & Kashmir, and their masters in Pakistan, reflected in Balakot surgical strike, helped him win the 2019 mandate with a staggering majority.
In people’s mind, Modi’s success or failure in his second tenure would be judged by what he does with Kashmir. The appointment of hard-nosed Amit Shah as home minister is an early signal. If Kashmir is settled, Modi would’ve earned the nation’s gratitude for centuries to come. He would be the favourite child of India’s history.
Modi has made his first move within hours into his second term. Amit Shah is positioned as home minister. Shah too has lost little time: He already has held a detailed closed-door discussion with Satya Pal Malik, governor of Jammu and Kashmir. The state is presently in its second year under the President’s rule. (Legally, President’s rule is tenable for three years at the most).
The rumour is abuzz that delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir could happen soon. Petitions are being written to the President of India. Now that the power of J & K assembly is vested with the President, it’s within his powers to order such a move. A Delimitation Commission could be set up which could redraw the constituencies—and take away the stranglehold which Kashmir Valley has enjoyed over the rest of the state. The freeze till 2026 would go in a jiffy.
This has the separatist forces in the Valley in a flutter. Everyday, Omar Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) are warning of the consequences if this comes to a pass. Once the freeze is lifted, the ascendency of Jammu is inevitable. It already has more area than Kashmir Valley. It has more people in some constituencies than Valley has in two. (For instance, two constituencies in Srinagar City has nearly 50,000 less electorates than in single constituency of Gandhi Nagar in Jammu region. Same would be the case with Jammu City East seat).
Once this happens, everything would flow from the ballot and not from the bullet. Just imagine the scenarios below:
- A state under its political control could make BJP do wonders in not just protecting the integrity of the state but also of its soldiers who have died in tens of thousands over the last few decades;
- Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits, driven out of Valley by militants, could regain their paradise lost;
- Lakhs of Gujjars, Bakerwals, Gaddies–around 11 per cent of the state’s population—don’t have any reserve seat in the Valley even though they were given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status way back in 1991. The seven reserved seats for ST—Chamb, Domana, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba, Hiranagar, Chenani and Ramban in Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur district–are all in Jammu region and have stayed stationery since 1996, never ever rotated to Kashmir Valley).
- Legislative control in the J & K assembly would make the abrogation of 370 and 35A a child’s play;
- A secure Kashmir would be such a powerful bulwark against Pakistan and its’ ISI, not to say a leverage which would come handy against China;
- If terrorists are throttled, Jihadi organizations such as Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, not to say Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed—and its leaders such as Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar—would be neutralized.
- Safer borders means lesser martyred soldiers. A buoyant and not a demoralized force. It would also free up India’s security apparatus. Men and money both could be saved.
Modi has the mandate. Shah is in the hot chair of home minister. Millions of Indians are looking for askance: Settle Kashmir once for all. This dispensation has a historic opportunity to undo the damage of appeasement to the Valley which India has practised since the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.