Gurpreet Singh: No surprise that right-wing trolls unfairly targeted Shahrukh Khan following his son’s arrest

It's part of a larger pattern of attacking the reputation of Muslims and Muslim sympathizers on Bollywood

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      The anti-Muslim hatred that has blinded Indian society under the Hindu nationalist regime led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows no boundaries.

      Now, it has consumed Bollywood as well.  

      The latest to become the target of such madness is high-profile actor Shahrukh Khan.  

      This follows the recent arrest of his son, Aryan Khan, by drug-enforcement agents after a raid on a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai.  

      Khan junior was at a party aboard the vessel. Whether he was in possession of the drugs or involved in the drug trade has not been proven in the courts, but he and his influential dad have already started facing a trial by media and a backlash.  

      There are calls on social media to boycott Shahrukh, with some going to the extent of calling him a traitor. 

      Agree or not, this is part of a pattern to malign Muslims, which has grown under Modi, whose party is determined to transform India into a Hindu theocracy. The attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have spiked under his watch ever since he became prime minister in 2014. The emboldened supporters of the Hindu Right think that it is their privilege to go after Muslims on any pretext.  

      The arrest of Aryan Khan is a mere excuse, considering what other Khans have been facing in the film industry for all these years. So much so, actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, who is a Hindu and married to a Muslim actor, has also been enduring this nonsense.  

      She has been consistently attacked and insulted for her marriage to Saif Ali Khan, adopting Khan as her last name, and naming her two sons as Taimur and Jeh. Hindu supremacists try to misinterpret these names by mentioning two Muslim emperors, whom they frequently accuse of tormenting Hindus.    

      I have been following all this for the past many years and was prompted to write a book, From Nazneen to Naina: 20 years of Kareena Kapoor Khan in Bollywood and what that means for India and the rest of the world (now available on Amazon), which was released by my journalist friends in India on her birthday last month.  

      The book is a political statement and tries to situate her story in the broader context of the current toxic environment and its spillover effect on the film industry. It covers several episodes of Muslim actors being hounded both within and outside Bollywood.   

      Notably, most big media houses in India have conveniently ignored my book even as they continue to run stories about her daily activity being posted on her Instagram account, which explains everything. One publisher wanted me to take out all political references, which I refused to do. Eventually, it was published by Ludhiana-based Chetna Parkashan, which has previously published three of my books.   

      Gurpreet Singh's book about Kareena Kapoor was released last month.

      The frenzy being faced by Shahrukh hasn’t surprised me at all, although it is definitely painful.  

      Bollywood is not the same as it used to be long ago. It is pertinent to mention that pioneers of Indian cinema were far more secular.

      Among them was Prithviraj Kapoor, the great grandfather of Kareena. He was the cofounder of Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) that educated the masses to fight against British occupation of India and to value human rights and social equality.

      Incidentally, my grandfather-in law, Tera Singh Chan, was not only a contemporary of Prithviraj, but cofounded the IPTA with him and few others. And yet, the Hindu Right that had no role in the freedom movement brazenly taunts the likes of Kareena and her husband as “antinationals”.  

      With the emergence of a new and intolerant India under Modi, Bollywood has also degenerated after being influenced by the jingoism that perfectly suits his party, the BJP.  

      Those outraged need to put the blame where it belongs.

      Indian cinema is one of those cultural spaces that have become a battleground of ideas. To recapture it, we need to identify the root cause of the problem instead of seeing what Shahrukh is going through as an isolated instance due to his son’s arrest.