Priyanka Chopra's blind patriotism

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 8/13/2019, 9:16 a.m.

Updated: 13 AUG 19 09:34 ET

By Rafia Zakaria

(CNN) -- "Whenever you're done venting ... got it, done? Okay, cool," is the dismissive way Bollywood starlet and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra began her response to a question posed by Ayesha Malik, a Pakistani woman, who confronted the actress over why (despite her role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador) she had "encourage[ed] nuclear war against Pakistan"

Malik's accusation referenced an incident from late February, when India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, teetered on the brink of war following the Indian bombing of a Pakistani village. "Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces" (Hail India and its Armed Forces), Chopra had tweeted then.

The confrontation happened in the most unlikely place: the BeautyCon summit held in Los Angeles.

But, significantly, the exchange between an Indian actress and a Pakistani questioner also happened at a time when India and Pakistan seem to be once again at the brink of war.

On August 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, which has long wanted to make India a Hindu nation, announced the sudden abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. These provisions (put in place when India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947) had long granted autonomy to the disputed regions of Jammu and Kashmir, which straddle the border between the two countries. With their repeal, the restive region is now directly under the thumb of the BJP, which has also recently grabbed for itself the unilateral power to declare any individual a "terrorist" without any sort of due process.

"War is not something I am really fond of, but I am patriotic," Chopra went on to say to Malik.

But there should be a line drawn between being patriotic and showing sympathy for the Kashmir predicament. Chopra, between her tweet, the condescending way she began her response to Malik, and the fact that she even welcomed Modi to her wedding to Nick Jonas, shows that she has no sympathy for suffering Kashmiris.

This emerging interpretation of "patriotism" as a justified turning away from the plight of suffering Kashmiris, or Muslims or anyone whom Modi doesn't like is emblematic of what political scientist Kapil Komireddi calls the "cult of Modi."

In Bollywood, this "cult of Modi," with its fervent Hindu zealotry, has set itself to the task of producing films that support the BJP agenda, serving almost as an unofficial propaganda arm of the ruling party. Unsurprisingly, then, even as thousands of troops were marching into Jammu and Kashmir and eight million Kashmiris were aghast at being isolated and silenced, Bollywood film producers had already registered Kashmir-related film titles that they wanted to get under production. These include: "Kashmir is Ours", "The Tricolor (Indian flag) in Kashmir" and "Article 370." In the words of the producer of the Modi biopic who has also registered some of them, "I wanted to explore why one state was granted such privileges. But after the historic redrawing of our map by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I have just found the perfect ending for my film. From a film based on history, it is now going to be a historic film."