Can Bollywood work for peace?

Amidst the tension, it is the Indian film industry that could play an important role in calming down the situation and ending this policy of animosity among the neighbours.


By Abdul Sattar

The recent unprovoked firing by Indian troops along the line of control and subsequent warning by Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa against such senseless actions of India has worried many pacifists, living either side of the border. The firing has been going on for years, claiming many casualties on either side of Kashmir. Most of the victims are ordinary citizens of the two South Asian countries, who just want to live in peace and have nothing to do with the agenda of war-mongers sitting in power corridors of New Delhi and Islamabad.

India should realise that tension with Pakistan can never help it achieve economic prosperity that it has been dreaming since the 1980s when it opened up its market for foreign companies. Any tension in the region will not only affect Pakistan and India but may engulf the entire region. New Delhi seems to believe it can checkmate Islamabad in any conventional conflict but what it needs to remember no state in modern times would like to lose any war. The specter of defeat haunts every modern state and it tends to go to any extent to avoid any major loss in the battlefield. It is clear that Pakistan is not an exception and in case of any major conflict Islamabad would resort to any tool that could save it from a defeat or humiliation.

So, what appears to be a conventional war to many Indian policy makers has the potential to ignite a nuclear conflict that is likely to annihilate not only the two countries but the entire region with catastrophic consequences for the world as well. Given the heavy investment of China in Pakistan, New Delhi should not expect that Beijing will be a mere silent spectator. Policy makers in the most populous country of the world are aware that the US wants India to be a policeman in the region. Though China seems to be avoiding conflict at all costs, it will never allow any power to dominate South Asia. So, in that case any conflict with Pakistan is likely to drag other regional powers as well.

The current tension is the result of hate-mongering that has been promoted by the politicians of the two countries over the decades. For a very long time, the religious right in Pakistan employed anti-Indian rhetoric to attract masses but since the 1980s the situation has been the other way round. For over three decades the bigots and ultra-Hindu nationalist parties have been whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan hysteria. While India no longer features in electoral debate in Pakistan, the land of the pure still seems to dominate the public imagination of the largest democracy. The retrogressive forces in India tend to use anti-Pakistan card to gain political mileage. The biggest anti-Pakistan party made it to power corridor of New Delhi more than once. Such is not the fate of anti-Indian parties in the Islamic Republic where Pakistani masses seem to have more political awareness than the Indian public. Anti-India parties always face a drubbing in electoral arena of Pakistan.

Amidst the tension and environment of hate, it is Indian film industry, also called Bollywood, that could play an important role in calming down the situation and putting an end to this policy of animosity and hostility that the leaderships of the two countries have been following for decades. There was a time when Bollywood produced a number of humanistic movies transcending race, colour, religion and nationality. Such movies were watched with great interest by both Pakistanis and Indians but with the demise of the Soviet Union, the working class movement and its ideology of universal brotherhood of toiling masses also suffered. Indian film industry that created much space for progressive thinkers, poets and film directors was hijacked by ultra nationalist forces. Indian intelligence agency RAW sprang into action, allegedly financing a number of anti-Pakistani movies. Such movies can do no service to arts and humanity. They tend to just foment more hatred instead of attacking hate-mongers and bringing the people of the two countries closer. Pakistani film industry in recent years was also accused of narrow nationalism, which does not serve the interest of common Pakistanis who want peace and prosperity for a country that houses more than 60 million hapless poor masses.

What the artists in the both states need to know is that absence of peace will only lead to barbarism where no art or culture could flourish. Artists need to transcend all sorts of divisions. They are the true representatives of humanity, which cannot be divided on the name of caste, creed, religion and nation. This creative community needs to ponder over the consequences of wars and conflicts fought in various parts of the world. The World War one claimed more than 15 million lives, the second big slaughter or the World War Two engulfed more than 70 million people and the mankind did not stop there. Since the end of the terrible world war two, the heart of the earth has been burdened with more than 150 major and minor conflicts, pushing more than 20 million souls into the lap of graveyard.

Even a minor conflict in this part of the world is likely to trigger a major war which could escalate into a nuclear showdown. Armed with more than 200 nuclear arms and several dozen tactical nuclear arsenals, the two countries can exterminate several cities of this ancient land that was declared a cradle of civilization by many historians. It will not only destroy Pakistan and India but wipe out every trace of our glorious history from the face of the earth.

But it is difficult to lecture politicians on peace and pacifism. They are not interested in listening to these pleas of peace. The entire business of politics rests on the ideology of hate and war-mongering. For the people of two countries the war is bloody but for the leaderships it is bloody profitable. India’s obsession with buying lethal arms leaves no option for Islamabad but to emulate New Delhi. Both countries have millions of poor souls living a life of animals. It is time that conscientious people come forward with the message of love in a vigorous way.

But the influence of such people is likely to be limited. The most influential personalities in the two countries and perhaps in the region are Bollywood actors and actresses. Therefore, this film industry can demonstrate miracles by producing films that focus on the common problems of masses instead of doing the bidding of their intelligence agencies. They may have produced horror movies but they need to expose the horrors of wars and conflicts. They need to highlight as to how over a billion people are suffering because of this mad spending on arms and ammunition that have snatched two time meals from millions of people in the two countries. The celebrities in India and Pakistan have millions of followers. They can motivate their fans for the cause of peace. The least that they could do is an outright No to any movie that foments communal sentiments and promotes chauvinistic feelings. Once a French communist leader said, “The entire red army cannot defeat Coke, Jeans and Rock.” Today it can be said the brigade of hate mongering consisting of millions cannot defeat hundreds of artists if they have a dogged determination to work for peace in the region.