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War of women’s words

  • Published at 06:23 pm August 24th, 2019

P Chops ki chintay falay dilo?

I am not a die-hard fan of Priyanka Chopra, and I am not a political analyst with a strong grasp of Indo-Pak relations regarding Kashmir. I am, however,  a keen observer of social processes and women in social spaces, and therefore I would like to explore why I am being exhorted to become outraged that Chopra is “encouraging nuclear war” by a single tweet on February 26 earlier this year stating, “Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces”. 

Chopra’s stance was brought to my attention by one Ayesha Malik, a Pakistani born Influencer and YouTuber, a US citizen who lives in Alaska, and who “confronted” Chopra at the Beautycon festival in Los Angeles on August 11, 2019. 

What happened on February 26?  Indian Air Force jets crossed the Line of Control in order to attack a suspected terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan in retaliation for the Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019 where an alleged Pakistani trained suicide bomber killed over 40 Indian military personnel. India claimed that they eliminated a number of terrorists, while Pakistan maintained there were no casualties, that Indian jets were forced to drop their payload and return. 

Now back to Chopra. Given that both her parents were physicians in the Indian army, I did not find her tweet in the least bit surprising or shocking. But the issue is not about her background, and according to Malik it is about her being a “hypocrite” as she is a humanitarian and a goodwill ambassador. 

I will digress here slightly on a semantic turn. A humanitarian is one who is devoted to the promotion of human welfare and the advancement of social reforms, and as such is generally expected to broadcast messages of peace and oppose hatred and violence. A goodwill ambassador delivers goodwill or promotes ideals from one entity to another, or to a population. In her own defence, Chopra said she was a patriot, meaning one who supports her country and is willing to defend it against its enemies, while Malik referred to her as a nationalist, or one who supports her country’s interest to the detriment of the interests of other nations. 

I can see Malik’s perspective, but she makes an unconvincing argument about Chopra’s intention to cheer on conflict based on that one tweet because it was several months before Article 370 was abrogated, and contextually it was in support of defeating terrorism. And it was Malik, who, by her own admission was being confrontational, while Chopra did attempt to diffuse the hostility, albeit in a rather flimsy manner. More so, if hypocrisy is the issue here, then perhaps Malik ought to stop giving personal interviews on the matter since she has clearly stated it was not about her but the events in Kashmir. 

And while we are on the topic of Kashmir and war, perhaps Malik ought to take history lessons on the events that transpired between East Pakistan’s transition to Bangladesh and  the Afghan-Pak political conditions, and a current affairs lesson on events in Balochistan.  Of course, all of these developments, in no way, diminish the wrongs in Kashmir. 

I agree that celebrities such as Chopra who take up goodwill causes do need to use social media more responsibly, as tensions are high and volatility is the order of the day, but  in this case to say that Chopra is deliberately “encouraging war” is a far stretch. We also need to address the grey areas where humanitarianism intersects with terrorism.

I find that Malik’s contrived battle cry at the Beautycon, with the support of a section of the media, is a pathetic attempt to embody herself and Chopra as corresponding nemeses of the Indo-Pak hostilities over Kashmir. I wonder why she did not choose a more progressive and effective manner to use the platform or space they  both occupied? It is not Chopra who ought to be taken to task for presumably encouraging war, but Malik for making a mockery out of the significance and gravity of the situation in Kashmir today.  

Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.

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