WhatsApp Kashmir ! Keep it up Deepika!

By Vijaya Pushkarna

The Kashmir Valley may soon come to life with the  WhatsApp, Face book and Twitter accounts  of people pinging away, thanks to the Friday verdict of the Supreme Court of India.And we may hear people's stories, directly from them.

 In a judgement on the lockdown in Kashmir after Art 370 was scrapped on Aug 5,2019,  the apex court came down on the government for suspending internet services and imposing  unpublished restrictions under Section 144 Cr P C.

Internet services, the three member bench of  Justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and B R Gavai,  maintained, was part of freedom of expression. And powers under Section 144 “cannot be used as a tool to prevent the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic right” .  It  qualified  this with the rider that unless there is an emergency.

The verdict  brought the Kashmir Valley a wee bit close to India—like nothing ever has. Most of the leaders based out of the strife-torn  area are under arrest and so could not  react. But senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad seemed visibly happy when he said that the apex court had  “felt the pulse of the people of J&K”. Azad interpreted the judgement “politically”, thus : It meant dissent does not amount to destabilization. And  suspending internet and locking up leaders only means nobody should speak against the government.
Equally, it cheered thousands of protestors who were primarily expressing their dissent over many acts and lapses of the Modi government –one of them being the Citizenship Amendment Act , along with the proposed National Register of Citizens.

But even as the Supreme Court spoke up yet again for people’s right to express their opinion or grievance, Smriti Irani, the Union Minister for Women and  Child Development, lashed out at Deepika Padukone for expressing hers. The actor’s quiet presence with  protesting students in the JNU campus three days ago, continued to make waves as did her home production and starrer “Chapaak” which received  rave reviews on the day of its release.

"I want to know what Deepika Padukone's political affiliation is. Anybody who has read the news would know why she would stand with the protesters," Irani said, before telling the audience at an event that in 2011 the actor had made known her support to the Congress. Irani went on to comment that  "It was not unexpected to us that she was going to stand with people who want the destruction of India. She sided with people who hit girls on their private parts with lathis. I can't deny her that right. She made her political affiliation known in 2011 that she supports the Congress Party. If people are surprised by this, it is because they didn't know. There were a lot of admirers of hers who have just discovered her position”

A former actor, albeit in the small-screen space, Irani became the first cabinet rank member of the Modi government to take on Deepika who is being lauded by the film fraternity –amongst a host of others—for taking a stand when students and youth across the country have hit the streets. Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister for Environment, underplayed it saying she was free to go wherever she wants and support whoever she wants, given  India is a democracy.

It is surprising that Irani  has raised the issue of Deepika’s political affiliation. Professors of politics say that anyone who goes to cast a vote is a political person. And how the minister knew that the girls with whom Deepika stood had hit others in their private parts with lathis is anyone’s guess!


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