November 28, 2015

India: Angry reactions to Aamir Khan could redefine patriotism and its reverse (Edit, Times of India)

The Times of India

The spectre of foreign wapsi: Angry reactions to Aamir Khan could redefine patriotism and its reverse
November 28, 2015, 12:00 am IST TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI

Should Antonio Costa, the Goan-origin newly elected prime minister of Portugal be charged with sedition against the Indian state? Should industrialists like Ratan Tata or Lakshmi Mittal also be similarly accused?

In the sound and fury generated by reactions to Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s remark that his wife had asked him, in view of the growing climate of intolerance in the country, if it might be a good idea to go live in a foreign country words like ‘sedition’ and ‘patriotism’ are being given a twist that defies all dictionary definitions.

Though the actor has emphatically and earnestly declared his pride in being an Indian and affirmed that he has never contemplated leaving the country, he has been targeted for what might be called his suspect ‘foreign wapsi’ agenda of airing the option of emigrating from the country.

Indeed, for his ‘thought crime’ of even thinking that going to live elsewhere could be a choice available not just to him but to any citizen of this country, a case for sedition has been filed against him in a Bihar court.

This gives rise to the intriguing conclusion that if choosing to live in a foreign land is seditious, the entire Indian diaspora is guilty of the treasonable offence of having voted with its feet in leaving India and settling abroad.

Viewed in this light, the diaspora – of which we are so proud, and which contributes substantially to the economy through remittances – is comprised of a bunch of subversive elements who should be put in the dock instead of being feted in venues like Wembley Stadium and Madison Square Garden.

The diaspora apart, Indian industrialists like Ratan Tata who invest abroad could have their patriotic credentials scrutinised for possible signs of sedition. If found culpable, such people might also be included in that long and growing list of people being urged from various quarters – including that of the office of the current governor of Assam – to go to Pakistan for a variety of anti-national activities, such as eating taboo foods or wanting to play cricket with any team fielded by Nawaz Sharif.

What with the large number of people being egged on to go to Pakistan, Air India’s Maharajah might well plan to lay on extra flights to that country to bolster the national carrier’s sagging fortunes.

Whether Pakistan-bound or elsewhere, all foreign travel could arouse suspicion. In which case, will the finger of suspicion soon also point towards that indefatigable globetrotter whose frequent forays abroad have earned him the tongue-in-cheek distinction of being India’s first NRI PM?

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.