Prof. Rasal Singh
Ignorance is the best treatment for absurdity, however, we are cursed to live in times where blusterers become part of discourse, so countering foul mouths become imperative. An actor who blew away the audience with power-packed performances has had her share of adulation as well as criticism and controversy. Known for not mincing her words ‘controversy queen’ Kangana has been in the eye of the storm. The Padma Shri awardee Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has been making headlines ever since she said at Times Now summit that the freedom gained in 1947 was ‘bheekh’ (alms) and India attained real freedom in 2014 (referring to Modi 1.0). According to her, in 2014, India became independent, prior to this we were under British rule. She has specifically pointed out that 70 years of Congress era, an extension of the British rule. If so, why is government of India led by Modi celebrating Azadi ka amrut Mahotsava with great fan fare?
The brazen statement made by Kangna not only heaped insult on the courageous Satyagrahis led by Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel; also belittled the sacrifices of revolutionaries like Sardar Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Veer Savarkar and lakhs of other Krantikaris. The actress has been under attack with politicians, historians, academics, fellow actors and others lashed out at her views and aptly termed them as ‘madness’ and ‘treason’.
Struck in the eye of the storm, in spite of introspecting or being apologetic about it, the actress shamelessly kept the controversy cauldron bubbling, by making series of ferocious claims. Wherein, she targeted and insulted the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi via a series of her posts on Instagram. Kangana shared an old newspaper article and casually asked, “Either you are a Gandhi fan or Netaji supporter. You can’t be both, choose and decide.” The newspaper had an old article from the 1940s with the headline, “Gandhi, others agreed to hand over Netaji.” Kangana claimed that both Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Bhagat Singh got no support and were handed over to the British by those ‘who had no courage’ to fight oppression but were power-hungry. She then went on to say that there were evidence suggesting Gandhi wanted Sardar Bhagat Singh to be hanged. She even took potshots at Mahatma Gandhi and ridiculed his mantra of ‘non-violence’ by saying, “Those are the ones who taught us, if someone slaps, offer another cheek for one more slap and that is, how you will get Azadi. That’s not how one gets Azadi, one can only get bheek like that”. These erratic statements re-affirm that all is NOT well with Kangana. She needs immediate psychotherapy for OCD.
Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, appropriately jibed at Kangana for taking disparaging digs at Bapu’s mantra of ahimsa. He pointedly replied that turning the other cheek takes more courage than “Gandhi-haters” can fathom. Turning the other cheek is not the act of a coward, he asserted. “It takes a lot of courage, and Indians of that time displayed it in abundance”.
Many, like Bhagat Singh, Azad, Udham Singh, Bose and Savarkar gave their lives for the freedom struggle, and we salute them. But making the freedom struggle a ‘Jan Andolan’ -a People’s Revolution – was Gandhi’s unique contribution. Gandhi was the focal point of India’s freedom struggle. He harnessed the power of the people to bring change not only on political but social front as well. He was the architect of the social reform movement in India. Gandhi Ji worked on uprooting various social evils in the society which prevailed at that time. He launched many campaigns to provide equal rights to the untouchables and farmers and improve their status in the society. He also worked on the women empowerment, education and opposed child marriage which had a long-term effect on the Indian society. Equity, simplicity and clarity of words, deeds and writings were his forte. Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela got their strength from Gandhi’s ideals, allowing them to lead millions to fight for equality, such was the status of the Bapu.
The constitution guarantees every citizen freedom of speech but one cannot use abusive words for historical figures under the garb of freedom of speech and expression. Kangana has been continuously making rhetoric against Mahatma Gandhi, she even said that all was not well between Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi. On the contrary, the daughter of Subhash Chandra Bose has given an explanation for this, she also quoted “if Subhash Chandra Bose respected anyone the most in India, it was Mahatma Gandhi”. Veer Savarkar, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, and Sardar Patel also gave utmost respect and importance to Gandhiji. Off late, Kangana praised Savarkar’s role in our freedom movement and visited his cell in Cellular Jail at Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Undoubtedly, it is praise worthy to give importance and respect to those who were marginalized, but in doing so it is unwarranted to insult and despise Gandhi, and what are the basis to her praising of one and vituperation of the other. Further, its Congress and not Gandhi, responsible for the mistakes of last 70 years. Hence, it is foolish to blame and contempt Gandhi for the same. It is worth mentioning that Gandhi ji proposed to disband the Congress post independence. This is not the first time the actress has spewed venom against Mahatma, earlier in the year, she diced into his personal life and accused the man for being a bad parent.
Instead, of being grateful to the exceptional contributions Gandhi ji made in the existence of India, handing us a lifetime gift of ‘freedom’ that we will never be able to return with full respect, while a ‘bheek’ as Kangana proclaimed, can seldom be returned; why she is time and again bashing Gandhi? What is her locus standi to comment on Gandhi or freedom movement? Why Kangana Ranaut is all for speaking up on such matters? Being the blabbermouth, one never knows what she will say about whom, and what repercussions it would have. Does she need cheap publicity and hype? Being an actress by profession with 24 x 7 limelight, isn’t that enough? Does she want to take a political plunge? Is she contemplating a parliament berth? It is virtually certain that she is eying to enter politics in a not-too-distant future. However, did Kangana went a little too far this time? This time, she seems to have struck a nerve. She has clearly outdone herself. What Kangana needs to realize is that she is a public figure and an influencer who has widespread reach, making derogatory comments about freedom fighters and India’s Independence will undoubtedly keep her in public glare and win a handful of spectators, but no rational individual will ever get flattered by such gimmicks of misrepresenting history to win brownie points. Furthermore, this will certainly be the biggest stumbling block in her road to political crowning, as no political party would like to be associated with psychotic who can’t be restrained or the one who causes discomfiture for those around her! Also, being an actress, she should focus on improving her craft rather than becoming a historian or intellectual.
With a plastic sword in her hand and riding on a hired TATTU, doesn’t qualify her to act as Rani Lakshmi Bai. In fact, Maharani Laxmi Bai would have been ashamed of her erratic statements, demeaning the entire freedom movement. Mere acting in a film depicting Rani Lakshmi Bai does not give her the entitlement to subvert long fought freedom struggle and insult freedom fighters. She is no Rani Lakshmi Bai, ‘A Controversy Queen’, instead. These statements are part of her calculated design to divide freedom fighters and gain personal mileage. A point worth pondering is whether India got Azadi as ‘bheek’, or has she received Padma Shree as ‘bheek’, and now targeting a Rajya Sabha berth as ‘bheekh’.
The top BJP leadership should outrightly condemn her. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India should take Suo Moto cognizance of her insinuating statements, she should certainly be stripped off the highest civilian honor she has recently received, and Y category security blanket, with immediate effects. Her claims are not only ignominious to the lakhs of freedom fighters, but to the 135 crore Indians, and the idea of India in general, for which she should be booked under charges of sedation.
(The author is Dean, Students’ Welfare Central University of Jammu.)
Prof. Rasal Singh