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‘What if Indians living abroad are forced to eat beef ’

Published : Nov 8, 2015, 12:25 am IST
Updated : Nov 8, 2015, 12:25 am IST

While National Award winner and Hindi film director Onir doesn’t believe in returning the award, he says there’s a need to respect others’ opinion as well. Following the tremendous backlash against Shah Rukh Khan for speaking out against growing intolerance in India, Onir, in an interview to Mehul Thakkar, feels the liberal space is shrinking.

Hindi film director Onir
 Hindi film director Onir

While National Award winner and Hindi film director Onir doesn’t believe in returning the award, he says there’s a need to respect others’ opinion as well. Following the tremendous backlash against Shah Rukh Khan for speaking out against growing intolerance in India, Onir, in an interview to Mehul Thakkar, feels the liberal space is shrinking.

What are your observations on the current scenario in the country

I just feel sad that today there’s no space to start any dialogue anywhere. It is okay to have differences, but it is not right to silence somebody. Even before, under other governments, I was always socially active as a citizen. I have raised concerns on many issues. But today there is regression like never before. As a society, the divide is growing day by day, and I don’t mean just in terms of caste, so that is a concern. I find it really strange, especially on social networks when you put out your point of view there are people saying you are speaking against the country or against the Prime Minister. But hell! This is a democracy!

There is always an opposition. People call you leftist or a pseudo-intellectual, almost making one feel that one has to have political leanings to express oneself. Earlier, everyone had a voice and it was never that a certain party wasn’t allowed to talk. I am surprised to see the negativity that comes your way when you talk against the government today.

Those people who are saying it are not looking at history. You have to praise everything whether you like it or not. We are so obsessed with development, but if you cannot develop as human beings who sit together and talk, how will there be any development

It is okay to have a difference of opinion, but why are they vicious to people with opinions different from theirs My brother is one of the many scientists who returned their awards. My sister has also returned the award. It is just a point of view and it has to be respected.

I don’t believe in returning the national award. It’s not easy to give back your award. My heart would break if I have to give away my award. But I need to respect others’ opinion as well. Why is there so much insecurity over dialogue Being a deshbhakt doesn’t mean you start hating others. How can you ban beef in a democratic country Don’t you care about the Northeast or Kashmir Are you going to ban pork Are you also going to ban mutton and chicken Where do we stop Shah Rukh Khan says “ intolerance religiously not being secular in this country is the worst crime you can do as a patriot”. What do have to say about that How will this growing intolerance affect our social fabric in the long run

Very often, where an intolerant statement is concerned, the ruling party will say that it is not the party’s stand. That guy from your party has said something, so how can you disown it The government should take a stand. We are breaking up as a country. What does this tremendous backlash against Shah Rukh Khan signify

It just shows that we are trying to destroy democracy and that cannot happen. The British divided us once, and we cannot let that happen again.

What should the government do to stop this How can it drown out the voice of intolerance

I feel the first thing is to take a stand, get rid of these laws and beef bans. For example, 20 people will abuse me for what I am saying, but if I say what they want me to, it’s fine. We have not grown out of that enslaved mindset. We are still nurturing the divide caused by Partition. We are still obsessed with colour, laws like Article 377. Honestly, we should have had a unified legal code long ago. And I don’t mean just the Hindu law, but a law for all.

The symbolic gesture of returning awards has created awareness. What more can the liberals do

I think the liberal space is shrinking. They are being buffeted from all sides. Hats off to all the people who are talking about this. We need more participation from students. Unfortunately, not enough has been done to reach out to more citizens.

How would you stage your protest

I have been part of the letter that was signed by the filmmakers. My next film talks about dalit rights. I found it significant that people in urban cities are unaware that there is another India.

Do you think the language of intolerance is mocking this government’s development agenda

Of course, it’s harming the vision the Prime Minister came with. He is going everywhere, opening up our society. It won’t happen if we don’t develop intellectually. Why would the world invest in the country if we are so intolerant See, we have a huge diaspora all over the world. What if the foreign nations imposed their laws on these Indians What if they make beef-eating compulsory What if they don’t allow you to celebrate your culture I don’t like the word tolerance. I feel the right word is intrusion and acceptance, as it doesn’t give power. The world is watching us. We are doing well. Did India need this at this moment

We don’t need this at all. It’s a time to build bridges and not divide our society and be petty about it. The whole country is rocked by something as basic as a food ban.