Ask any Tamilian and chances are that 8 out of 10 people you survey, will say they are a Rajinikanth fan. They like his punch dialogues and body language on the big screen. Someone who takes the villain head on and demolishes him with style. Watching a Rajini First Day First Show has been a ritual in most parts of Tamil Nadu for years.
Cut to real life. The same Rajinikanth calls a spade a spade, does not flinch from praising Narendra Modi and Amit Shah even though their popularity ratings in Tamil Nadu, if the 38/39 scorecard for the DMK-led alliance in the 2019 general election is any indication, are nowhere near the rest of the country. He compares them with Krishna and Arjuna and describes their plan on Jammu and Kashmir as a “master strategy”.
“The way they planned the entire issue, it was a master strategy. First, they imposed Section 144 and ensured that people don’t create any trouble. Then they tabled the Bill, first in Rajya Sabha where they don’t have a majority and then got it passed in Lok Sabha. They planned and executed it perfectly. Politicians should know what to politicize and what not to politicize. I appreciate this move of the government because it is related to national security,” Rajinikanth said.
This time, Rajini does not get any applause. There is no whistle podu moment. Instead within Tamil Nadu, he only gets catcalls. People say the mask is off. That he has proven himself to be a closet Sanghi.
Was Rajini right or wrong?
In my opinion, Rajini was absolutely right when he said the government strategised well, planned to near perfection. Does India want the government to be a nincompoop that goofs up? It was obvious there will be protests in Kashmir so a clampdown was necessary, it was important to ensure secrecy. Would you rather have a government that leaks like a damaged tap. Remember former foreign minister Natwar Singh who had said the CIA had penetrated every sphere of UPA. Do we want a government of a similar template?
Not that people in the rest of the country are conversant with the complex intricacies of the Kashmir issue. What we however, know is that the state has bled for a significant part of the last 70 years. Pussy-footing has only given us Geelanis, Yasin Maliks and Burhan Wanis. Which is why the common man on the street finds nothing wrong in a more head-on approach to the issue. Article 370 did little to stop terrorism in Kashmir and even Kashmiri experts tell you it is a much watered-down version in force now, so why are tears being shed over it.
It is this sentiment that Rajini is giving voice to.
The problem with this is the liberal trust deficit when it comes to Narendra Modi. It is automatically assumed that what Modi does has to be with a selfish motive and not in national interest. And that it will come with an anti-human rights approach. That to my mind, is insulting the office of the Prime Minister and the mandate he got three months back.
But I digress. The question is why is Rajinikanth being singled out for attack. How is he saying anything different from what TRS, TDP, AAP, BJD, YSRCP actually did on the floor of the House and have diplomatically refrained to comment on it. None of these parties is a member of the NDA and yet they supported the Bill rather enthusiastically in Parliament.
Frankly the liberal class that criticises the so-called BJP bhakts as being intolerant, are proving to be no better. The bhakt calls anyone with a contrarian view, an anti-national and the liberal calls you “saffron”. Saffron is now the synonym for an expletive in their dictionary and it is regrettable that they are as intolerant of another opinion as the bhakts who they accuse of being very rigid.
That the BJP will remove Article 370 was never in doubt. You cannot accuse the party of springing it on the country, it was always on its manifesto and agenda.
My problem with Rajinikanth however, is that while he has every right to support the government’s decision, he fails to speak for the people of Kashmir. Why does his heart not beat for the people who have been living like prisoners, with curfew and clampdown continuing. While it was strategy to employ such methods while moving the Bill in Parliament, by reducing Independence Day in Kashmir to a farce, by arresting prominent politicians, the state is undermining liberty and freedom. That is deeply distressing. There are black sheep in Kashmir but that does not give the establishment the right to paint every Kashmiri black.
Just the way Rajinikanth tarred everyone with the same brush when he spoke on Tuticorin last year. The Superstar’s position reminds me of his Tuticorin statement after the firing in which 13 people were shot dead in May 2018. At that time, he pointed an accusing finger at the anti-Sterlite protestors saying “extremists and anti-nationals had hijacked the Tuticorin protests.” He used that to justify the crackdown.
I am not getting into the politics of Rajinikanth, whether he is trying to inch closer to the BJP by supporting them. My point is at the end of the day, democracy is about people, it is not just about a piece of land. And Rajinikanth has as much a right to be heard as a MK Stalin, Amit Shah or any other citizen.
While I laud Rajini for speaking his mind at the risk of being painted saffron in his backyard, I also expect him to speak up for the people of Kashmir. Krishna and Arjuna were the heroes but the people of Kashmir are the foot soldiers, the Abhimanyus who are caught in the vortex of the battle between security forces and Pakistan-backed terrorists.