“Failing state”? Even Indians think Swara Bhaskar should stop confusing Pakistan with her career!

Published: June 7, 2018
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In this entire fiasco, Bhaskar comes out seeming not only like an opportunist, but also as someone whose awareness level is shallow when it comes to international affairs. PHOTO: HINDUSTAN TIMES

Given the current milieu of tense relations between India and Pakistan, an Indian contemplating the comments made by a relatively unknown Bollywood actress regarding Pakistan being a “failing state” may not be the most reasonable exercise. However, her statements bring forth something very typical about an average Indian’s perception of Pakistan.

Over in Pakistan, actress Urwa Hocane’s posts calling Swara Bhaskar out for her contradictory statements on Pakistan have already gone viral on social media.

However, it needs to be mentioned it’s not just Pakistanis who are expressing their anger, as Bhaskar has been equally condemned in India for her comments. And this time it’s not just the leftists and the liberals lambasting her, but also the right-wing of India, notorious for their trolling on Twitter.

From her famous “vagina” comment regarding Padmaavat to the masturbation scene in Veere di wedding, Bhaskar had already annoyed the Indian right-wing. And after showering her wisdom with the passionate use of the heavy strategic terminology “failing state” to describe our neighbour, she has reduced herself to a mockery even among her traditional leftist and liberal fans.

Someone like Bhaskar has many reasons to resort to such tactics for cheap publicity. She has been struggling for a long time, and even now she is not a top-league actress in India. In the extremely competitive world of Bollywood, it is not easy for someone like Bhaskar – with average looks, mediocre talent, and not from a famous family to boot – to make a mark. Plus, in an industry that is still a male bastion, the career of an actress is very short. Hence, resorting to such publicity stunts is a common practice in Bollywood. Rakhi Sawant, another Bollywood actress (perhaps much better known than Bhaskar) built her entire career on such tactics.

Furthermore, such sensational statements are an easy way to compensate for other shortcomings. In fact, this is quickly becoming a trend in Bollywood. When they don’t have good stories, they come out with raunchy, obscene and sensational plots, with imaginary narratives on sexual openness or perversion as their central theme, for reasons that are more than evident in the sexually suppressed socio-cultural milieu of South Asia.

In this entire fiasco, Bhaskar comes out seeming not only like an opportunist, but also as someone whose awareness level is shallow when it comes to international affairs. The crass opportunism she has displayed is very characteristic of India’s middle class and elite socio-cultural world.

Bhaskar has lived in Delhi. Her father has taught at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), India’s left-wing bastion. In Delhi’s upper middle class, it is a general trend to visit dargahs (shrines), accommodate for certain Islamic practices, praise Pakistan, advocate cultural exchange, and criticise the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to project oneself as a diehard liberal and secular.

However, when the same group wants to appear nationalist, they start bashing Pakistan, as it is the most convenient choice. Through such gimmicks, they occasionally get the support of India’s right-wing. Moreover, these days it has become very fashionable to sound nationalist and patriotic in India. Those who are not very comfortable with the rigid social restraints advocated by the Hindutva crowd on eating habits and sexual freedom, often resort to Pakistan bashing to prove their nationalist credentials.

This serves many ends. It makes you nationalist without sounding communal, regressive, orthodox, or even religious. Hence, such opportunism is rooted in the subconscious of India’s elitist and intellectual class. Most people belonging to such a crowd in India use buzzwords like feminism, liberalism, and LGBT activism, without actually knowing or meaning what they proclaim. Generally, it is a PR exercise and makes you look “cool” and more acceptable in the elitist ecosystem.

Further, Bollywood in general does not seem to like Pakistan a lot at the moment. Understandably, when talented artists like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan and Ali Zafar make forays into Bollywood, survival becomes a bit difficult for upstarts like Bhaskar.

On a more serious note, I would also like to clarify that using the epithet “failing state” for Pakistan is very common among Indians in general. It’s very common here to come across people with absolutely no knowledge of international affairs passing grand judgments of Pakistan being a failing state. Of late, the element of future telling has also become common. Semi-literate media presenters invade primetime shows with their conspiracy theories and predictions of the dismemberment of Pakistan.

I think we have been taught to believe we are superior because of our democracy, without realising how dysfunctional and distorted it is. People hardly display any awareness on the kind of progress Pakistan is making through infrastructure projects. The narrative is mostly biased, presenting Pakistan either as a colony of China or as a pivot of religious extremism. This perception deficit, or rather lack of sufficient understanding of the Pakistani state, society, and cultural ethos, is also present in India’s strategic community and political circles.

This partly stems from the arrogance which prevented pre-independence Indian leaders from accepting the idea of Pakistan, and partly from a highly insular attitude and a false sense of superiority that prevails in India today.

However, if there is to be lasting peace between both countries, I think us as Indians first need to understand and appreciate Pakistan and find more of a common ground, rather than make salacious and aggravating comments for the sake of cheap publicity.

Abhinav Pandya

Abhinav Pandya

The author is a graduate of Cornell University. Currently, he serves as Strategic Advisor to Vidya Bhawan, Rajasthan. He writes on socio-political issues for Vivekananda Foundation, Fair Observer, Huffington Post. He tweets @abhinavpandya (twitter.com/abhinavpandya).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.