A letter to Naseeruddin Shah


Dear Mr Naseeruddin Shah

There is more to India than deviance and social problems. The expression of fear that its morals, ideals, ethics and scruples are either debilitated or attenuated is clearly irrational. India’s conscience is and will always be intact.

There are deviants in every society. Villainy, wickedness or malefaction can only exist in an imagined society of perfect quality. There is no such utopia in the world. Not being a utopia does not make a society so distasteful, dreaded or distressing to be demeaned in the way you have done.

There is no mob rule in India. Nor are Indians a fickle crowd. And social norms which define human behaviour are very much in tact. Any kind of verbal abuse which delegitimises our institutions and our culture is inexcusable and is indefensible. India can do without this stigma.

Ours is no tribal or closed society. There is cultural and religious pluralism and accommodation for alternative points of view. We are no dumbed down masses, are alert and alive to our situation, critically understand our circumstances and have never allowed knowledge to become political. Our lives are moderated by the Constitution and the laws and we enforce accountability to wrongs. The moral system which the majority community in this country subscribe too is of moral universalism, an ethic which transcends religion, culture or personal whim. You have assumed the role of a moral entrepreneur and using urban legends have tried to create a moral panic, a role which does not behove you or any other responsible person in your position.

Fear is a primeval emotion. All of us know fear. Phobia is however an anxiety disorder. There is an irrationality to it and a deviance from acceptable individual behaviour. Your phobia is your own making which may require therapy or medication. Treat it. Do not indulge in it nor publicise it to create dismay or dread in others.

The folkways, the ways of living, thinking and acting, which are our perennial guide to conduct and which we consider of central importance embodying as they do the fundamental moral values of our society will make us instinctively stand with your children and defend them should the need ever arise. This is India. And this India does not so act as part of a conscious design but as a visceral reflex to the gruesome and horrifying fictional situation you imagined.

Instead of instilling fear in your children educate and empower them with the India of India which you have forsaken. I as an Indian have always seen you only as the versatile actor who carries a famous name. The fact you are a Muslim never factored in my estimation of you. You have insulted every Indian like me with your comment.

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