A section of the artists working in the Mumbai film industry have taken cudgels for their counterparts working and originating from across the LOC.

The foreigner artists do not number more than eleven, actors, singers and technicians. A sizable number of opinion makers in the Indian industry have shown their red flag to the decision of the local artist unions that the alien artists who are residing temporarily, should return to their homeland and stop work within India. The announcement follows the hardening of official stance against the shenanigans of the government in Pakistan who has been supporting illegal underground political and jihadi movements in North India.

The protest in favour of the visitors is led by Mahesh Bhatt and this time joined by Salman Khan and Anurag Kashyyap. Lesser known or prominent workers in the Industry have also taken a muted stand.

Film workers unions of the MNS and BJP are in the forefront to ensure no Pak national stays back currently to work on Indian projects. Indian event organisers sensing the worse, have cancelled their engagements in various metro cities and asked their guests to return home and await further advise waiting for the hot heads to cool.

The issue to me is not emotional, but ethical. As PM Modi said, blood and water cannot go together, so be it. Those supporting the Pak artists’ right to work in Indian films are finding ways and means to argue their case that artists are not terrorists, have missed an important reality. They are still Pakistani nationals first and must bear the liabilities of their State even if they may attempt to remain neutral or apolitical.

While we may not be at war with Pakistan government, all the artists who carry Pakistan passports have allegiances to their government or they would not have retained their travel documents. Its another thing again that almost all Pak artists and businessmen have armed themselves with an additional British passport after availing the cash deposit scheme for the issue of Commonwealth passports which is recognised in England. But we recognise only that passport which carries an Indian visa.

In the past such a situation had not arisen.

Indian films were totally banned in 1965, which ban lasted for nearly 30 years when President Mushsharraf lifted the embargo and allowed the coloured version of Mughal-e-Azam to be screened in his country on import. The Pak film industry was thereafter literally snatched away from the mouth of commercial death and today it is a developing trade.

The first artists who crossed the border were singers. They also came via Dubai and established their fan base. Their success story was followed by young nubile actresses who wanted to get a foothold in Mumbai. Henna Bhakhtiyar and Salma Agha were fore-runners but their careers did not bloom. Pakistani actresses made more news in newspaper pullouts than in films. But their male counterparts have fared better. Still the number is insignificant.

Therefore the issue also remains one of principles. Here we must fall back upon international practices.

Once a national government issues work permits to foreigners to work temporarily, it opens the gates to business. But such work permits do not guarantee personal physical safety in reality. We have welcomed the Pak artists and patronised their talent, but we cannot assure their physical safety against individual lunatic conduct by any one member of our nationality. That number is rather large in India.

We are also at the same time asking foreign artists to condemn violence which has been originating from their country. These artists with one voice have privately felt sorry for the lives lost, but they have not made any public condemnation of such violence even without naming their nationals. They are afraid of the consequences back home on their relatives and final retirement plans.

Agreed, the Pak artists are not terrorists, but if you are a real artist, then you are also an intellectual leader. Therefore the Pak artists have a responsibility to create a public opinion against what is wrong in their public life. These artists by one voice have failed to meet that test of public probity. They are businesspersons and cannot be put in the artist’s category. They must finally stay away from India till a better business climate comes about.

In the meanwhile, our advise to our artists will be to decide whether they wish to be better actors or better netas. India has a hysterical population given to mass emotions. The artists pleading the cause of aliens must also examine the pro and cons of their public conduct in the hour when jingoism in public life is the flavour of the month.

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