The Newshour anchor is playing dangerous mischief.


Oh shut up, I said, yanked off the earphone (and Arnab Goswami’s hysterical noisy dribble) and walked off the camera, leaving the genteel technicians with the big Times Now equipment van without another word.

I should have taken leave of those technicians and told them “so sorry, this obviously has nothing to do with you, thank you for coming,” I thought to myself later.

A few minutes later, my cellphone is flooded with messages saying “well done”, “glad you had the guts to say shut up to Arnab’s arrogance” and many other messages in a similar vein.

Half an hour later, I get the feedback that Arnab is saying, post-blipping me off the show and my simultaneous shut up to him, that I have insulted the father of a Kargil War martyr by saying shut up to him.

I think an RTI application is in order to play back and scrutinise the show’s live recording of last night. I think it will prove that Arnab is playing a game of dangerous mischief.

And his tools are not dissimilar to the one’s used by hardline rabble-rousers who have caused religious and ethnic hatred and dissension as well as riots in our country.

Now let me make it clear why I said this whole debate is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. I will start by saying what I said on the show last night.

I had said: “I am not interested in Fawad Khan or Pakistani actors. Their  presence or absence in Bollywood is not important to me. Bollywood producers cast them because they wanted to and if the producers’ body is now screaming for their ouster from the country in order to display their angst about our soldiers in Uri, wouldn’t it be better if they put their energies into collecting funds for the families of the Uri martyrs, shouldn’t our energies be directed towards actually connecting with them – the widows, children and parents of those killed? Asking how they are and what can we do for them.”

Then I said (or tried to, with Arnab constantly screeching in my ear) that India and Pakistan have never been friends, we have always been enemies, so what is the big hullabaloo now?

India and Pakistan have had two full-blown wars (1965 and 1971) and then the Kargil War in 1999 – when the mutilated bodies of our young officers came back in coffins from Pakistan. Why did we forget that?

Since 1999, we have allowed Pakistani artists and actors to work in India – why have we forgotten 1999… why did we allow Pakistani artists to come to India after the war if  their presence was indeed an issue?

It was after this statement of mine that I heard Arnab’s voice screaming in my ear that I was being condescending towards the country, to Bollywood (and to the Indian Army, I think he said).

I also need to tell you that I could hear only Arnab and a lot of surrounding noise in the earphone, and I did not even know who was on the show and what was being said by them.

I did not know, and neither was informed, that the father of a Kargil War martyr was on the show – the question of insulting him does not arise.

For those who have seen me on the Barkha Dutt show We the People,where the Army and the Pay Commission were being discussed, it is clear that the Army and its values are in my blood.

I suffer deeply every time Army personnel are used and then discarded – whether it is in times of actual war or while they are guarding our borders, or saving lives during the floods in Kashmir or during earthquakes – it is only the soldier who is at the forefront and always ready for duty of any kind in any situation (war or no war).

My father, my beloved armyman father, fought on the front in all three wars. My brave Army wife mother would tell me in 1971: “If daddy doesn’t come back, it is because he will be going to God.” And she would continue to work with me on my homework for the next day’s school even as the air-raid sirens were screaming overhead.

I have not forgotten 1965, I have not forgotten 1971 and I have not forgotten 1999. Why, after all this, were Pakistani artists allowed to come and perform?

It is with this logic that I say the Pakistani-artists-in-Bollywood issue is a non-issue today.

And we expect the poor Fawad Khan – who crossed the border to make it big in Bollywood here – to become a hero? You expect him to stand up to his government in Pakistan and pledge allegiance to India?

He probably has a family to protect back in Pakistan! Does that make him anti-Indian?

When communist playwright Safdar Hashmi could be killed by the youth wing of our then ruling government in broad daylight while performing a street-play in Delhi years ago,  and as a nation we “let it pass”, who is Fawad Khan?

If Binayak Sen could be jailed in India, imagine Fawad Khan’s plight in Pakistan. When thousands of Sikhs were butchered and burnt alive in Delhi in 1984 and we hid in our houses in fear of what that government could do to us, were we all traitors?

Or were we the terrorised middle-class that lost its bearings in the face of an institutionalised witch-hunt?

When the Pandits of Kashmir left in a mass exodus, we let it be, are we traitors? Or are we pathetic mortals?

The fact that a whole show is given to someone like a Mr Arnab Goswami speaks of the Times we live in Now.

I recall poet WB Yeats’ amazingly insightful lines from The Second Coming. He speaks of a time that will come when:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Speaks of the times we are in now, doesn’t it?