Petty political players act as if India is at war with Pakistani actors instead of Pakistani terrorism. This is perverse and self-defeating. We are a proudly open society and surely don’t want to emulate societies where jingoist bullies have brought down the walls on art, song, debate. A vibrant diversity and creative freedom have given us a cinema industry that stands tall in the world. Caging its creative freedom will ruin Bollywood. Surely that’s not in the national interest. So when Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was threatened just because it features Fawad Khan, government’s job was to unequivocally protect the film and uphold the law. It’s deeply worrying that Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has instead mediated a ‘settlement’ forcing filmmakers to kneel to jingoist thugs.

Raj Thackeray and MNS have been at the forefront of those threatening to attack cinemas screening Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, and now they are loudly claiming victory because film producers who have already cast Pakistani artistes have been told to pay up Rs 5 crore each to the army welfare fund as ‘penance’. But the army, to its great credit, has distanced itself from such mafioso nationalism. It doesn’t want welfare funds from extortion or coercion.

Just as the army is no fan of unseemly politicisation of the surgical strikes, petty attacks on soft targets like actors are not its game. Its nationalism and secularism are more confident and tolerant. On the unfair targeting of soft targets, diverse observers like Mehbooba Mufti and Abhay Deol have noted that while films attract so much sound and fury, the rest of India-Pakistan business proceeds broadly unaffected. Actually over the last 12 years, trade between the two countries has grown nearly eight times – from just $345 million to $2.6 billion. Importantly, Indian exports are four to five times Pakistani imports.

Will MNS now take up cudgels against Indian businesses selling to Pakistan and creating jobs in India? It’s time politicians redefined their job as improving livelihoods of people rather than engaging in fist-shaking displays of simulated patriotic fervour that hurt jobs and businesses. It doesn’t demonstrate bravery of any kind to pick on soft targets. So don’t punish Pakistani actors and Indian films. Don’t hurt and seek to extort from but help businesses.