Against casting stones

By Vijay Badhwar

The International Film Festival and Awards of Australia (IFFAA) scheduled to be held in Sydney on May 13 has been cancelled following an uproar in the community alleging the platform will be used for anti-India propaganda and in support of extremist views on Kashmir.

The festival was replete with top Bollywood stars ”“ Dharmendra, Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Randhir Kapoor, Jeetendra in the long list, but what created the controversy was inclusion of some Pakistani artists who were noted in the past to be propagandists for separatists in Kashmir.

Some concerned  members of the local Indian community drew TIDU’s attention about the Pakistani artistes that included Ali Azmat who had released an inflammatory song he dubbed as anthem, inciting violence and promoting terrorism. Another among the invited Pakistani artistes was Faysal Qureshi who had dedicated his award to militants, and Fakhr-e-Alam, a pro-separatist mouthpiece. If they had been able to use the festival platform for inciting hatred and violence, it would have been indeed shameful.

Art should not be allowed to be infiltrated by such extreme elements. It should remain pure across boundaries, serve as a bridge across our differences and only be used to spread a message of love and oneness among the humanity. Kashmiri Muslims were never known to be extremists. They symbolised the diversity of India that represented melding of diverse thoughts into a culture.

It is a matter of utter shame that young students are indoctrinated towards violence, casting stones. Instead of them learning in their formative years, their youth is wasted in teachings full of hatred. A religion should never be allowed to be manipulated for such maleficence as it goes against its intrinsic tenets.

But, unfortunately, times are such that India faces dilemmas. Although in normal times neutral places like Australia should serve as launching pad towards building up of relations by bringing artistes from the subcontinent together to celebrate art and culture, at this time when India mourns heinous crimes towards its soldiers, common sense will advocate that promotors refrain from issues that can fuel emotions.

The advocacy, however, should not be enforced in the name of nationalism or religion. Who is to say that Bollywood entertainment is hollow and it should be Yoga instead. That Fawad Khan cannot act in Indian movies otherwise cinema halls will be burnt. That is utter immaturity: extremism that we criticise in others, a morass of pseudo morals.

These self-appointed licensees are an equal nuisance to a progressive society as they may as well manifest conflicts of interest. The power centres are able to make or break an enterprise which should not be allowed. This must be moral police’s refrain.

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