Anurag Kashyap on Narendra Modi swearing-in ceremony: PM must act, not just talk, against hate
In an exclusive chat, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, whose daughter was threatened with rape, opens up about the aftermath of the Modi electoral win
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap was one of the 600 artistes who had signed a letter in April, urging people to "vote BJP and its allies out of power". His critique came at a price — soon after results, Kashyap's daughter was threatened with rape on social media by someone who seems to be a Modi supporter.
I felt vulnerable. I am answerable to my family for what they go through because of my opinions. She got the rough end of the stick because of me. She came and told me, 'Papa, look what kind of things people are telling me.' I still have that message on my phone," recounts Kashyap, opening up on the episode for the first time. The director had promptly brought the issue to Modi's attention upon his win and filed a police complaint.
Soon enough, he found the support of several BJP members. In mid-day's exclusive report on May 26, several party members condemned the threat, while distancing themselves from such objectionable behaviour. Kashyap says he was relieved to see the outrage against the perpetrator. "I read that story later, but it makes me glad that so many people spoke up. People from the party reached out to me saying that they don't endorse trolls and haters. It made me believe that democracy isn't dead yet."
Addressing the nation last week after being re-elected as prime minister, Modi spoke about unity while decrying divisive politics. Though he admits that the speech was "full of hope," Kashyap knows better than to take things at face value. "I wish Modi implements what he said. The problem isn't just with the man at the top, but at multiple levels beneath him. People convolute his ideas to serve their interests. Religion can't be used as an excuse to settle a personal score. There is a culture of hate, and only the PM can take that away. He has to not just say it in a speech, but take active measures to eradicate it. Stern measures have to pass down the hierarchy against prejudices."
While dissent is a natural right in a democracy, the last few years have seen an increasing clampdown on free speech. Question him if the government has little tolerance for an anti-establishment view, and he says, "The atmosphere is unhealthy. It comes from the hero worshipping. Why do we need to worship a leader? When I ask a question, it's seen as an attack. In counter to my question, one is actually attacked [referring to his daughter]. When the PM is tagged on a social media post [and questioned], people retaliate by saying, 'How is he answerable?' The PM is answerable for everything; he is in charge of the system that has to function equally for every citizen."
Making a stronger case for free speech, he adds, "As a citizen, I have expectations from the government, and when they are not met, I would want to question, talk and debate. We have to learn to agree to disagree; dissent is sacrosanct. This atmosphere needs to be curtailed where a citizen is afraid of wearing his ideology on his sleeve. I come from a family that abides by the [Ram Manohar] Lohia school of thought. For me, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a great PM, but unfortunately, I don't see the same promise anymore."
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Let's talk films with Anurag Kashyap and Shyam Benegal