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Pakistan, Kashmir narrative in Kangana-Shiv Sena war of words draws sharp reaction

Kangana Ranaut’s repeated use of Pakistan, Kashmir in her tussle with the Maharashtra government from comparing PoK to Mumbai and saying demolition of her office is like the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits has drawn sharp reactions.

New Delhi/Srinagar September 9, 2020 UPDATED: September 10, 2020 11:33 IST

From calling Mumbai PoK to compare the demolition of her office to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, actor Kangana Ranaut has repeatedly invoked the political situation of Jammu and Kashmir in her ongoing war of words with the Maharashtra government.

Within five days, Kangana had used Pakistan, PoK, Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits – all to equate the tussle she faced with ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.

The first attack came on September 3, when Kangana took to social media site stating Mumbai has become like Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Taliban, citing threats from Sena leaders. She dared them to block her arrival to Mumbai.

Sharp criticism emerged from her peers in the film fraternity, local residents, and politicians for the PoK reference.

Three days on, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) demolished parts of her office, while she was en-route from Chandigarh. This despite her claiming “there is no illegal construction in my house, also the government has banned any demolition till September 30. Bullywood watch now this is what fascism looks like”.

As Sena stepped up the attack against her, she remained defiant and reiterated the Pakistan analogy.

At 11.30 am, minutes before her flight took off, she shared images of BMC workers inside her office and captioned the post – “Pakistan #DeathOfDemocracy”.

Sharing visuals of her destroyed office and alleging political vendetta, Kangana said, “I am never wrong and my enemies prove again and again this is why my Mumbai is POK now.”

Briefly using the Babur-Ram Temple analogy, she returned to PoK jibe against her demolished office visuals.

Then came a surprise.

At 3.40 pm, in her first reaction since arrival in Mumbai, she released a video hitting out at Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, stating “Today I realize what Kashmiri Pandits must have felt (on threats and demolished houses). I will now make a film, not just on Ayodhya, but also on Kashmir.”

The video sent social media into a frenzy. Surprised, members of the displaced Pandit community reacted to the unexpected mention.

JAMMU AND KASHMIR REACTS

Kangana Ranaut’s repeated use of Kashmir in her criticism of the Maharashtra government has drawn a sharp response from those in the Valley.

“Why use PoK as an example to highlight the murder of democracy and rule of law? Look closer home at Jammu and Kashmir mired in lawlessness and state-sponsored repression. Democracy was butchered here long ago,” tweeted Iltija Mufti, the daughter of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who is has been under detention for over a year after the abrogation of Article 370.

Journalist, Rahul Pandita was one of the first to react saying, “From the demolition of a wall you cannot understand the pain of Kashmiri Pandits. You do not know how it is when all your hair turns white in three days; you do not know how it is when old people die in exile, crying about their inability to see home one last time. For God’s sake, stop taking our name in vain. We refuse to be pawns in your battles of puny egos. Do not belittle our tragedy.”

“There is no connection between Kashmiri Pandits and her office. Everybody seems to be using the plight of Kashmiri pandits these days for their own gains. Unfortunately, some of us in the community are also giving these people space. Otherwise what we have faced nobody understands. I don’t see any connection between Kangana and our issues,” said Sanjay Tikku, a Kashmiri Pandit living in Srinagar.

Majid Hyderi, a political commentator from Kashmir calls it “unnecessary correlation”. “By linking demolition of her illegal construction to the pain of Kashmiri Pandits, she has added insult to their injury. Pandits had done nothing illegal and suffered silently. Kangana is glamorizing her unlawful acts,” says Majid Hyderi.

However, as hours passed, many Kashmiri writers and activists came out in support of the actor.

A Kashmiri Pandit activist said it is good if she makes a film on the community. “The land of Maharashtra has always shown its love and care towards Kashmiri Pandits. Balasaheb Thackeray gave us the gift of education and Kangana’s desire to make a movie on our exodus is welcomed. It is important that the world knows that Pakistan, terror, and failure of the state have kept half-a-million people homeless for 30 years,” said Amit Raina, a Kashmiri Pandit.

Siddhartha Gigoo, who has authored several books on Pandit displacement said, “As a creative person and filmmaker, Kangana Ranaut has all the right to make a film on us and what happened. After all, she has made some brilliant critically acclaimed films. Who are we to criticize any creative artist, all of us should wholeheartedly welcome such a thought.”

Filmmaker, Ashok Pandit who directed a documentary on Pandit exodus, added, “I thank Kangana for identifying with displacement with Pandits. Her plans to make a film on this issue is admirable.”

“Bollywood has been an active abettor of terrorist narratives and has covered up the Kashmiri Pandit genocide. I salute Kangana for her announcement that she will make a film on KPs. She will bring out the truth like no other. she will break down a lot of walls,” said author, Rakesh Kaul.

“Suddenly, a lot of empathy for Kashmiri pandits by those who could otherwise mince words over their exodus. Equivalence may not be appropriate but Kangana Ranaut’s words are not offensive either. Seen worse on tv debates where the tragedy of Pandits has been used as political rhetoric,” said Varad Sharma, writer, and columnist.

WHY PAKISTAN, PoK, KASHMIR?

Anjali Damania, a political activist, feels a bigger game is behind the war of words.

“What amazes me the most is the words used by Kangana. The choice of words like Ram Mandir, Babri Masjid, Kashmiri Pandit, etc, makes us wonder if it is a script written by the BJP. One can smell a massive political game to overthrow the Maharashtra Government and Shivsena is now coming across as an immature political party, walking into the trap.”

“Sanjay Raut is a guy who needs to be closely watched, I somehow suspect that he is in for a bigger game. He is slowly demolishing the image of Shivsena,” claimed Damania while adding that all governments misused machinery from the SSR case to providing Kangana Y+ security.

Kangana Ranaut’s tiff with Shiv Sena started over her criticism of the Maharashtra government’s handling of the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.

Her comment that she didn’t feel safe in Mumbai and the city felt like “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)” escalated the war of words. Several Sena leaders have gone on the offensive against her since then.

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