Dear Soumyadipta Banerjee,
From the outset, let me clarify that I am not singling you out particularly. I am merely addressing this letter to you since you have emerged as the latest flag-bearer of the intolerance that runs deep in Modi’s India.
Addressing you is a way to write to those Indians who are feeding this beast of intolerance, shrinking the space for coexistence in Indian society and peace in the subcontinent.
I read your letter to Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, who is currently working in India, in which you lament his silence over the condemnable Uri attack that killed 18 Indian soldiers earlier this month in Kashmir.
I was especially saddened when you concluded by “let us know when you are getting your air tickets to Karachi done.”
I was distressed by your misplaced rage after the Uri attack. Riding the waves of jingoism, you have taken your anger out on a well-known personality, presumably just because he is Pakistani and finds himself in India.
This is not the first time that a Pakistani artist has been targeted in this manner. Similar theatrics meant Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali’s concerts were cancelled in Mumbai and Pune in 2015.
For me, demanding Fawad Khan to leave your country represents a continuum of these distasteful expressions of xenophobia and nationalism.
Donald Trump would envy you.
Naturally, I was inclined to ask myself if throwing Fawad Khan out of India would end terrorism.
I put some thought into it and the answer was, no it won’t.
I also concluded that every time relations between India and Pakistan nosedive, it is the innocent people on both sides of the border who suffer the most. Political tensions create openings for opportunists to spread hate.
But I am not ready to give way to hate, and I urge you to do the same.
Let’s restrict hate-mongering to where it belongs. You have Arnab Goswami and we have Zaid Hamid. Let’s not become them
Mr Banerjee, I don’t think anyone can deny the commonalities of languages and cultures between Pakistanis and Indians, as well as the enormous dividends of peace and bilateral relations even if they have yet to be fully realised.
I am writing to you to suggest that we capitalise on our commonalities so that we may come closer to each other.
I suggest that we invest in peace and not war.
I hope that chest-thumping and war drums will not silence the saner voices in India, and that India will live up to its status of a responsible power.
I demand the same of my people and government.
I would like to end my letter with a suggestion: Why don’t you come visit Pakistan one day? Pakistanis are rather hospitable.
Come and we will also watch a Fawad Khan movie together.
Let us know when you are getting your air tickets done.
With deep regards,
A Pakistan-India well wisher.
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