A letter to Kamal Haasan

Dear Thiru Kamal Haasan,

Last year, you had tweeted about how you refused to fill in the caste and religion column in both your daughters’ school admission certificate. Making the revelation, you had written : “That’s the only way it will pass on to the next generation. Every individual should start contributing for progress.”

That could be seen as a progressive step. But if religion was not an identity you wanted to impose on Shruti and Akshara Haasan, why would you make that identity a part of your political discourse? Why would you fill the religion column in the form that announced Nathuram Godse’s name? Why would you confer on him the status of being the first extremist/terrorist in independent India and underline that he was a Hindu.

Yes, Godse was a “teeviravaadi”. Admittedly he also wore his extreme right-wing views on his sleeve and detested what he thought was Mahatma Gandhi’s pandering to Muslim interests and newly formed Pakistan. He was a man consumed by his hate and insecurities that he thought nothing of killing a man for it. For that he was punished by the due process of law. 

But that is where you should have stopped Sir. Because when you label him as a Hindu terrorist, you confer on him the stature of a spokesperson or a representative of the Hindu community. As if the entire Hindu lot, blinded by a hatred for the Muslims, had outsourced the task of pulling the trigger on Gandhiji to Godse. As if all Hindus of India were complicit in the assassination of the Mahatma. 

No Sir, you know it better than most it was not the case. Godse was a mind gone astray. What you do by your branding is to make it seem it was a Hindu-sponsored act of terror. 

In any case, what was the relevance of bringing in Godse during your election campaign in Aravakurichi. You mention that you are not bringing it up because you were canvassing in a Muslim-dominated area but because you spotted a Gandhi statue.

Giving you the benefit of doubt, dear Sir, you ought to have realised that the moment you highlight a “Hindu terrorist” in a Muslim-dominated area, what is the message you are sending out. You are basically telling the Muslim voters  that the Hindu side which accuses the Muslims of terrorism today is equally bad, in fact, worse because they were the first in the line in Independent India. That Godse was the father of the terrorism industry in India and he was a Hindu. 

I would not go to the extent of accusing you of trying to create enmity between two religions or abusing Hindu religion in front of Muslim voters, as some of your political rivals have. It is for the Election Commission to decide if your remarks violate the Model code of conduct. 

You yourself have been the target of outrage by both Hindu and Muslim outfits over the content in some of your movies. Extremism of any kind – verbal or physical – is vile. Religion is the shield these outfits grab to give themselves protection. It is our job – Hindus and Muslims alike – not to let our religions be held hostage. 

But when you hyphenate Godse-Hindu terrorist, you allow the religion to be hijacked. Just as others do when they say Yasin Bhatkal-Muslim terrorist. Or Sadhvi Pragya-Hindu terror accused. 

Unlike your political critics, I would not accuse you of talking about `Hindu terror’ with an eye on elections. I recall that in 2017, you had in a column in Ananda Vikatan Tamil magazine written about the Hindu right using violence. You had written (translated from Tamil) : 

“Earlier the Hindu right would not personally indulge in violence but instead through their debates they would incite their opponents to violence. But once this tactic failed, they started using muscle power instead of dialogue. They too have started using violence. They can no longer challenge saying `Can you show me a Hindu terrorist/extremist?”

But is terrorism an issue in Aravakurichi which is among the four constituencies that will see assembly byelections on 19 May. I would have liked to hear you speak about governance issues or about the extent of corruption in Aravakurichi, a constituency that saw the cancellation of election in 2016 because the atmosphere was “seriously vitiated” due to large scale bribing of voters. 

It is quite possible you did. But when you market your governance or alternate model of politics toffee in the wrapper of Godse and Hindu terrorism, sorry, it takes away the charm of the content inside. You come across as just another politician who vote ke liye kuch bhi karega. And in this case, kahega. It is disappointing because you promised to be different. 

Given the amount of attention television channels have devoted to your remark, it ends up coming across as an attempt to provide fodder for the news rundown, hit the headlines. For the electronic media, it is akin to an item number, good enough to get eyeballs for a few news bulletins. For the people on the ground, it serves no purpose. It is mere hot air. 

We have enough politicians delving into history during this election campaign. We would much rather have people like you talk about the present and the future. 


A fan of Kamal Haasan, the actor, who hopes Kamal Haasan, the politician will make a difference

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