A TV show aired on the ABC Television Network in the United States on June 1 has angered Hindutva, the newly emerging political right in India. Indeed, ‘ultra-patriots’ of Hindutva abused and cyberbullied the famous Indian star Prianka Chopra on social media forums and called her traitor who needs to be sent to Pakistan.
In the “Quantico” TV show, Chopra plays an FBI agent who uncovers a terror plot just days before a summit between India and Pakistan is to be held in the United States. During her investigations, Chopra’s character finds a religious Hindu symbol on the neck of one of the suspects, leading her to conclude that the plot was devised by Indian nationalists to frame Pakistan in a terror attack on the United States.
It was a routine entertainment drama, adding some suspense and highlighting the expertise of the Secret Service to unearth a false flag attack. However, the episode caused a social media storm, with ultra-nationalist Hindutva, questioning how Chopra, who is an Indian, could have agreed to be part of such a “controversial” plot!
ABC has explained that “Quantico is a work of fiction and that the show has featured antagonists of many different ethnicities and backgrounds. But no one listened.
“The episode has stirred a lot of emotion, much of which is unfairly aimed at Priyanka Chopra, who didn’t create the show, nor does she write or direct it,” said Walt Disney-owned ABC in its statement.
In this drama executive producers, Josh Safran and Mark Gordon explore the lives of young FBI recruits who have come to the Quantico base in Virginia for 21 weeks of training to become special agents. One recruit is harboring the biggest secret of all, and he ends up being suspected of masterminding the most deadly attack on US soil since 9/11. The show has eight episodes remaining in its third and final series, but due to Indian protests, subsequent episodes of Quantico have been cancelled.
The incident was seen with a lot of disbelief and shock at most international forums as to how a minor event triggered could cause such intense anger and cyberbullying and later street protests by so-called ‘tolerant and shining India’.
Chopra on her Twitter account said “that was not and would never be my intention. I sincerely apologize. I’m a proud Indian and that will never change.”
But all in vain.
The Indian government “should cancel @priyankachopra passport & should not allow her to enter our nation… Let her stay in Hollywood & lick Pakistan boots. Traitor,” Sumit Kadel, a film critic, said on Twitter.
Unfortunately, the Hindutva humiliated the proud and graceful actress who has extraordinary achievements to her credit and has represented India and South Asia over many forums.
Priyanka Chopra, the former Miss World is the highest-paid Indian actress, model and one of the most popular international celebrities. She has been a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and philanthropist. She promotes the education of girls in India through her namesake charity, ‘The Priyanka Chopra Foundation’. The Indian government gave her the second highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, and Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Forbes listed her among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2017.
Hindutva social media activists wrote on Twitter, “That entire episode was not just an attack on Hindus but also an attack on India. Peddling Pakistani agenda that Indians make elaborate plots to frame Pakistan.”
With some social users rebutting that, “.. Man – what is wrong with the world we live in today? People can’t just watch a TV show. People get offended over entertainment. Demanding apologies… Snowflakes all around the world need to calm down.”
“… PEOPLE…..it’s a TV Show, not Reality TV! If you’re going to confuse a TV Show with reality, maybe you should stop watching TV.”
Any Indian who talks about peace with Pakistan or criticizes the Hindutva lynching of innocent people over rumors of beef eating or ill-treatment of Indian army against Kashmir is labelled anti-national and a traitor. Even cheering for Team Pakistan in a cricket match has dire consequences in the biggest democracy of the world.
Movies and popular culture have been under attack from Hindu nationalists in India in recent years. Earlier this year, Hindutva held violent protests and threatened actors over the release of the Bollywood film “Padmaavat”, which showed a Muslim ruler pursuing a Hindu queen. In 2016, the online retail company Snapdeal was forced to drop actor Aamir Khan as its ambassador after backlash over his comments on intolerance in India.
I have just re-read Prianka Chopra’s old article titled “No woman in Mumbai feels safe any longer”, published in The Times of India in August 2012. She discussed the murder of 25-year-old Pallavi Purkayastha by fanatics. Chopra has been talking of ethics, logic and reason for quite sometime, which the new patriots of Hindutva don’t understand.
In the end, I don’t appreciate the response of ABC television network and its apology over the incident of Priyanka Chopra in the drama series Quantico. The network has preferred ‘politics’ instead of supporting its own artists.
*Atta Rasool Malik hails from semi-tribal areas of Pakistan. He is a veteran and holds an M Phil degree in international relations’ from National Defence University in Islamabad. His interests include politics of South Asia, the Middle East and Islamic & Jewish theology.