Many Bollywood personalities call for vote to ‘secular party’

Sonny Abraham
Filed on April 17, 2014
Many Bollywood personalities call for vote to ‘secular party’

This is the first time that Bollywood personalities, who are otherwise not involved in a big way in politics, have come out and taken a stand during elections.

In a rare and significant move, several well-known people from the film and entertainment industry, including filmmakers such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Mahesh Bhatt, Govind Nihalani and Zoya Akhtar, singer Shubha Mudgal and actor Nandita Das on Wednesday issued an appeal, saying that India’s secular foundation needed to be protected and urging people to vote for the secular party which is most likely to win in their constituency.

“The best thing about our country is its cultural diversity, its pluralism — the co-existence of a number of religions and ethnicities over centuries, and hence the blooming of multiple streams of intellectual and artistic thought,” the appeal said.

“And, this has been possible only because Indian society has prided itself on being essentially secular in character, rejecting communal hatred, embracing tolerance,” it said.

The signatories, who also included filmmakers Imtiaz Ali, Kabir Khan and Vijay Krishna Acharya, writer Anjum Rajabali, and actors Swara Bhaskar, Jyoti Dogra and Joy Sengupta, said that the very sense of India was vulnerable today.

“The need of the hour is to protect our country’s secular foundation. Undoubtedly, corruption and governance are important issues, but we will have to vigilantly work out ways of holding our government accountable to that. However, one thing is clear: India’s secular character is not negotiable! Not now, not ever.

“As Indian citizens who love our motherland, we appeal to you to vote for the secular party, which is most likely to win in your constituency,” they added.

Other signatories to the appeal include filmmakers Anand Patwardhan, Kundan Shah, Hansal Mehta, writer-director Saket Chaudhary, documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, actor Aditi Rao, writer-director Vinay Shukla, writers Sanjay Chhel, Kamlesh Pandey, Robin Bhatt, Rajesh Dubey, Vinod Ranganath, Imteyaz Husain,

Tabla maestro Aneesh Pradhan, lyricists Sameer Anjan, Kauser Munir and Jalees Sherwani, film editors Amitabh Shukla and Nishant Radhakrishnan, art director Sukant Panigrahi, producer Anusha Khan, sound designer Bishwadeep Chatterjee, screen writers Manasee Palshikar, Rukmini Sen, Priyanka Borpujari and Mazahir Rahim, documentary filmmaker Surabhi Sharma and screen writer Sharad Tripathi also signed the appeal.

The signatories also included cinematographers Anil Mehta and C K Muraleedharan, producer Preety Ali, filmmaker Sona Jain, theatre activist Sameera Iyengar, playwright Shivani Tibrewala Chand and activists Tushar Gandhi, Teesta Setalvaad and Javed Anand.

While many of the names are not A-listers in Bollywood, they are a young and fairly successful lot.

Many well-known Bollywood stars have aligned themselves with the main political parties and some of them have also been elected to the Lok Sabha and even served as Ministers in the Central Government. Many others have turned out to campaign for parties.

In the current elections, actors Raj Babbar and Nagma are contesting as Congress candidates, while Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughna Sinha and Kirron Kher are BJP nominees. Actress Gul Panag is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Chandigarh.

But this is the first time that Bollywood personalities, who are otherwise not involved in a big way in politics, have come out and taken a stand during elections. While the statement does not name any party, in India’s political lexicon, secular is a word that refers to the Congress and its allies.

The BJP, which has been placed as the front-runner in the 2014 elections, is accused by the Congress and its other rivals of being “communal” and following a “divisive” agenda. Writer Rajabali, whose brainchild the appeal is, told mediapersons that he was surprised at the readiness with which the younger lot signed the statement and took a stand at a time when they might justifiably be more obsessed with their careers.

Actress Nandita Das, who has been involved in a variety of causes, said that she owed whatever she was today to the secular and pluralist upbringing that she had.

Without naming any party, she said there were a couple of them which are playing a divisive role. She said that, by laying emphasis on development and governance, these parties were seeking to underplay their divisive record.

According to her, there was enough evidence in the public domain about the role these parties had played. She said it was not just about communalism and Muslims, but about all other religious, linguistic and regional groups. In this context, she pointed out the stand taken by various parties on criminalisation of private and consensual sex between adults of the same sex.

“I am what I am because of the varied influences that I have experienced. I want my son to grow up with all these many influences,” she said. She said the country could not be reduced to a monolith or a homogenous entity. “In our differences lies our unity,” she said.

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