Just because it’s foreign politics doesn’t mean celebrities can’t get heat for it.
Story by Namrata Prakash
On February 19 in Pulwama, Kashmir, there was a suicide bomb attack on a vehicle carrying 40 Central Reserve Police officers from India. Since the group of attackers, known as Jaish-e-Mohammad, was Pakistan-based, India was not hesitant to accuse the Pakistani government of being involved with the attack. The government of India threatened nuclear war, sending airstrikes to Balakot, Pakistan.
While the conflict between India and Pakistan is not new, threats of war between the two countries is not something to take lightly. However, this issue affects the country Kashmir as well, because one of India and Pakistan's most polarizing disagreements is who "owns" the territory. In actuality, the citizens of Kashmir are fighting for their own independence and right to self-govern. The Line of Control, which is on the border of India and Pakistan, has also been victim to airstrikes from both countries. The possibility of warfare is hurting many communities and it cannot be ignored.
After the attack in Pulwama, many Indian celebrities came to India’s defense, going as far as to support the war and put their stamp of approval on the air strikes. One of such celebrities is actress Priyanka Chopra, an international Bollywood star whose fame has recently spiked in America due to recent success in her career and personal life.
On February 27, after the Indian Armed Forces bombed a supposed Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp (but actually just damaged a horde of trees), she tweeted out:
She was met with immediate backlash, but as the tweet is still up, it is clear that she has no qualms about what she said. This tweet is a prime example of Hindu nationalism, which is the belief that India should be a country only for Hindus. Not only is the root “Hind” short for Hindu, but the phrase “Jai Hind” itself has been historically used in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Many believe she should be stripped of her title of UN Ambassador if she is openly egging on a potential war that is riding on Islamophobic sentiments.
However, this should not come as a surprise, because Chopra has been very vocal about her support for the fascist Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. He is supported by the BJP Party, a right-wing nationalist political party in India, and has used Islamophobia to rise to prominence. Modi has promised a new India for Hindus, disregarding the millions of Indian citizens that identify with other minority groups. Under his leadership, Hindu nationalist attacks have increased with little to no comment from Modi, and his party has famously attempted to suppress voters in Muslim-majority states.
Celebrities must be held accountable when they are rooting for people in power who have harmful worldviews. There has been no media uproar about this, whether it be because of her superstar status, marriage to Nick Jonas are or simply because India-Pakistan politics are not important to the mainstream public. Whatever the reason, such oversight is no longer tolerable.
It is easy to be seen as liberal in a country where one’s race is marginalized, but default to Indian conservatism when it benefits one’s rich, upper-caste privilege (and this is not to say that she doesn’t have privilege in America). But this thinly-veiled Hindu nationalism is responsible for the death and destruction of many Pakistani and Indian Muslims, and its continued use cannot fly under the radar.