Ever since the fatal attack on Indian soldiers in a camp in Uri in Jammu & Kashmir in the early hours of September 18th, things related to India and Pakistanhave gotten worse. Not just governments have locked horns on the question of terrorism, the civil society, too, has found itself split. Pakistani actors working in India were asked to leave the country by political parties that thrive on nationalist sentiments and the voice found both support and opposition. One among the many Indian actors who felt that Pakistani artistes shouldn’t be in India when the relation between the two countries was sensitive is Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a critically-acclaimed Indian actor.

He had said that nothing is bigger than the country

Now take this. The same actor was stopped from taking part in Ramlila – a popular evil-slaying play in North India – in his hometown Budhana in Uttar Pradesh by a Hindu outfit called Shiv Sena. The actor did not make a fuss against the opposition and saidthat he was advised not to take part for the sake of peace in the village. On behalf of the Sena, it was told that anybody having a ‘din’ in his name willnot be allowed to be a part of Ramlila, which involves Lord Ram, a hero of the Hindu mythology.

The Shiv Sena is not even a strong outfit in UP as it is in the state of Maharashtra but yet it managed to stop a Muslim actor from taking part in a Hindu festival.

UP’s Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav spoke out for Siddiqui saying “artistes have no religion." Ironically, Siddiquispoke against the stay of Pakistani artistes in India after his Bollywood colleague Salman Khan feltotherwise.

The circle came full for 42-year-old Siddiqui in no time. The same man who stood for his country at a time when emotions ran high and did not care to display a professional solidarity was given a humiliating treatment by his own countrymen on another occasion which was not related to something as serious as Uri.

So what is the identity of people like Nawazuddin Siddiqui? Is he an Indian who thinks that his country comes before everything elseoris he just a Muslim who is ethnically differentiated and mistreated by the flag-bearers of the majority religion in the same country before a key election which can determine the future course of the national politics?

Is country a matter of pride or confusion now for Siddiqui, who has won accolades for his films time and again, both at home and abroad? Those acknowledgements hadn'tcome for a Muslim but an actorfrom India.

The idea of India is under attack

But identity crisis of people like Siddiqui is something which is creating a lot of worry in today’s India. In the name of nationalism or counter-terrorism – the battalion of religious majority has empowered itself to decide on others’ fates and this sinister design is posing a threat to the very idea of India. Over the centuries, thevery existence of India has beendependent on and in turn conditioned by the fabric of socio-cultural harmony.

But today, with the decline of the centrist forces in the country, the right-wing nationalists are desperately trying to subvert the very foundation of the country’s social democracy by putting the majority over the minority.

Lynching of a man from a minority community on charges of consuming beef or relentlessly targeting Dalits for ‘mishandling’ cows have raised serious questions over the country’s social security. The saffron political outfits will not let things settle till the all-important UP elections get over for it will influence Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political fortunes in the second half of his first tenure and whether he would be able to return again to power in 2019.

But if Siddiqui’s experience becomes the norm than the exception in the near future, then the country is inviting for itself some serious trouble.We need to reinvent the idea of India as a pluralist entity where the concept of country' for a common man doesn't get crushed under vested political interests.

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