Critics have pointed to various Bollywood celebrities who did not share the same sentiments when Kashmiris were being targeted by Indian Forces but are supporting the popular western campaign.
June George Floyd was killed in early June after being arrested by an American policeman who knelt on Floyd for 8 minutes even while George was calling out for help, in his now immortalized words, “I can’t breathe”. The teenage girl who filmed the incident later uploaded the video online. This sparked massive riots across America, under the banner of Black Lives Matter (BLM). While the incident occurred in Minneapolis, the protests occurred across the entire nation. The conversation about racism opened up and everyone weighed in. Politicians such as Joe Biden, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian along with regular citizens. The Black Lives Matter campaign has been occurring for the past few decades, however this time it feels different. It has gained a momentum like never, both online and offline. The conversation is expanding from police brutality to the prejudice against black-owned businesses and students. Thousands have taken to the streets and an even greater number have taken this online, signing petitions and demanding justice for Floyd but also for countless other black Americans who have undergone judgement for the color of their skin. For African-Americans it goes beyond mere judgement and has become a matter of life or death. Black people have been killed for jogging at night, going shopping like Floyd had, and even for sleeping in their own bed. This time the American public will not back down until genuine change has occurred. The campaign has already resulted in the arrest of the policemen who conducted and aided George Floyd’s arrest. Voices that have been shouting for decades have suddenly received amplification and actual changes are occurring.
While the event deals with racism in America, it has opened up an international conversation. Protests have started in UK, with people demanding justice for the racism and micro-aggressions they have experienced. All over the world, this campaign has forced people to reconsider prejudices within their own communities.
Support for this campaign has turned global, clear by the comments made by Bollywood celebrities. Many of them such as Deepika and Priyanka Chopra have taken to their social media to call out on racism and violence. However, this has led to the opening of another conversation. While many celebrities have lent their voices to the BLM movement, people have pointed out their silence on issues within their own nation. Namely, the Kashmir issue indolence that has been ongoing for over a year now. Often celebrities have turned a blind eye towards this issue, stating that it’s a personal and controversial topic that they would not wish to delve in. Or many celebrities like Rishi Kapoor or Priyanka have taken to twitter to congratulate and support the Indian forces.
Are Bollywood celebrities jumping on the BLM wagon to remain relevant and to harbor support of the international community?
Many Bollywood actors require the support of the international community, especially since many are trying to make a breakthrough in the Western market. As the BLM movement goes international, it also becomes a ‘trend’, posting a few words and using the hashtag BLACKLIVESMATTER also seems to fulfill one’s ‘social responsibility’. It also allows one to clear their conscience. Many Bollywood actors jumping on this trend seems natural. However, the issue is that they remain silent on issues occurring within their own nation. Their livelihoods largely remain in the hands of the Indian public and to talk about Kashmir would cause them to lose popularity. Is it easier to talk about BLM because these celebrities have nothing to lose? It is riskier for their careers to talk about violence within their own nation. This is because Bollywood films require government sanction and certification to ensure their release, speaking out about Kashmir would cause issues or even cancellations of their films. This is a risk many actors are not willing to take, hence they prefer to stay silent on matters. Critiquing the Indian government or forces receives sharp retaliation from the government itself and the citizens. Hence mainstream celebrities have never publicly spoken or called out on the Indian forces. For many people it would be career suicide.
Selective activism brings to light the hypocrisy
While celebrities are condemning this violence abroad, they turn a blind eye to the violence in Kashmir. Indian forces in Indian occupied Kashmir killed four young people this week alone. Just like black people in America, Kashmiris have been protesting and marching for their rights for decades. Last year India imposed a federal rule on Kashmir and instated a curfew. They have killed innocent children and torn apart innocent families. Rape and murder are a daily occurrence. However, there is no commentary online, there is no activism and no support to the victims. Amitabh Bachhan has apparently donated to the BLM movement, however he has done no such thing for the people of Kashmir. Celebrities have been criticising the conduct of American police whereas their own Indian forces follow the same behavior. Rubber bullets and tear gas have been thrown on Kashmiri’s for decades now.
The issue isn’t in Bollywood’s support for the BLM. The issue is that Bollywood is not supporting the minorities within their own nation. The message they are spreading is hypocritical. Condemning the American police brutality while remaining silent on the Indian brutality is a problem. Are the Kashmiri lives not as valuable as American lives? Is violence abroad more significant than the violence in your country?
The silence is understandable. As actors they have to earn their keep and can’t sabotage that. However, if actors remain silent on Kashmiri matters, should they extend support for international matters?