Shah Rukh Khan and identity politics


One can talk about the public debate on that ugly events linked to the security check on Shah Rukh Khan. The passion seems to have been spent. Dust settled as it were. National pride no more staked on the incident. So one can talk about it better in public. I say ugly because it was difficult to be heard in the noise made about the incident.

from: google images

from: google images

Upfront let me say: there was nothing wrong in the former President or a popular star being frisked. There is everything wrong in going to the town tom-toming about how hurt you are that someone checked you in the airport. True, ex-Prex didnt personally make an issue. I am talking about everyone who did. I dont want to pretend that it was totally a creation of the media. Even if the controversy surrounding the two personalities may have been media circus, the structure of feeling is very common in India of which we regularly find evidence.

The issue is not what Shah Rukh or ex-Prez felt. The issue is why the people of India tend to associate national pride with issues of privilege. Not being frisked is a privilege. Seeing such a privilege as matter of national pride does not enhance anybody’s IQ. In fact the brouhaha perhaps harmed the image of India more than anything else.

Why should the identity of India be invoked in an issue so obviously related to security protocols. If the officers were less than civil to Shah Rukh, then it is a matter of significance. If their reason for delaying him and asking him strange questions were related as Shah Rukh said to his name, it is a grave matter. But, none of this necessitate the invocation of national pride; national identity. That Indian government felt it necessary to respond, is a sign of how sensitive we are to the world’s reaction to us.

from: google images

from: google images

Such reactions only indicate that as far as the national identity is concerned, whatever that may be, however much doubtful we are of it, in India there is so much of anxiety. Why is the society in India, the civil society, the media, the bureaucracy, the ruling class etc, so anxious that the world see us exactly as we wish ourselves to be seen?

I think right now the biggest challenge we are facing is not so much naxalism but nationalism. The monster invoked as an anti-colonial and integrating strategy is now coming to our grief as it is giving rise to so many nationalisms. The million mutinies are really nationalism taking deeper roots in our society.

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