Why Prakash Raj’s rebellion against Modi govt keeps our faith in democracy intact
New Delhi, Jan 19: What is democracy without dissent? Meaningless.
What is actor Prakash Raj without dissent? Voiceless.
In national-award winning actor Prakash Raj's continuous rebellion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and right-wing groups, 'the voiceless India' has got a new spokesperson.
At a time when freedom of speech is trampled every day if anyone dares to speak anything remotely against the Hindutva ideology (so dearly nurtured and propagated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates), a strong and sane voice like that of Prakash Raj, who is relentlessly speaking truth to power in spite of grave risks involved in it, is proving tonic to the shaken democratic values of the nation.
More than four months ago, when noted journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh was brutally shot dead by assailants outside her residence in Bengaluru on September 5 last year, one fearless voice emerged from down south who directly dared to question Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Without mincing any words, the popular actor who has worked in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi films, questioned Modi's deafening silence over the death of Gauri, who was a dear friend to him.
The actor-producer, who has a huge fan base across south India, too was quiet for some time after Gauri's murder. However, the shameless celebrations over her death, by a group of self-proclaimed "hyper-nationalists" whom Modi follows on Twitter forced him to raise his voice.
"We do not know who killed them (the journalists and rationalists). But we do know who is celebrating the murders. When you see that the Prime Minister of the country is following (on Twitter) those who are celebrating the murders, when he is not taking a stand against it, when he has maintained silence on the issue--that silence hurts,'' said Prakash Raj.
He added, "As a citizen of this country, I am disturbed, hurt and afraid by the silence of the Prime Minister. I am talking to my Prime Minister and I say, 'Your silence is chilling'. I have a right to say this."
These are Prakash Raj's very first "political" outburst against any politician or government. The Iruvar actor till then was known to be apolitical unlike many of his colleagues from the south Indian film industries.
In a recent interview with The Indian Express, Prakash Raj, the Bengaluru boy, who started his acting journey from theatre, admitted that he should have spoken earlier.
"Yes, I should have asked [questions] earlier," he said. "Does that take away my right to ask now? There is a point when somebody snaps when it comes from within... For me, it was Gauri...I am not answerable to others, I am answerable to my conscience. My conscience says, Prakash you can't be silent," he added.
Once his conscience got awakened, Prakash Raj has been regularly questioning the current socio-political scenario of the country, where if mob lynching is the standard operating procedure to silence Muslims and Dalits, then love jihad is a weapon to terrorise young men and women from even dreaming about someone who does not share their religion or caste.
These days, when every day a new "political storm" hits the country, Prakash Raj has spoken on a range of issues. Right from demonetisation, ban faced by films like Padmavati (now renamed as Padmaavat) and S Durga, Hindutva politics to Union minister Anant Kumar Hedge's comment on the removal of the word secular from the Constitution, Prakash Raj has always taken an "anti-establishment" stand.
Every time, the 52-year-old actor had spoken (whether in public events or his tweets) to air his views, he refused to bow down to the popular political wave which promotes hatred among communities and loves to gag "freedom of expression".
Because of his regular outburst against the ruling dispensation at the Centre and various right-wing groups, Prakash Raj has faced vitriolic criticism.
Like anyone who questions the Modi government and its associates, Prakash Raj too has been branded as an "anti-national".
Recently, hatred against the actor got manifested in a shameful and dogmatic manner when a group of BJP leaders in Karnataka sprinkled cow urine on the stage to "purify" it after Prakash Raj addressed a gathering.
Those who went ahead with the purification drive alleged that the actor is a "beef-eater" and thus he was "unclean" as per Hindu religion.
On Thursday, Prakash Raj once again spoke against Modi and other prominent faces belonging to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Speaking at India Today Conclave South in Hyderabad, Prakash Raj said, "They call me anti-Hindu but I am anti-Modi, anti-(Amit) Shah, anti-Hegde. They are not Hindus. People who support killing are not Hindus."
"When my friend Gauri Lankesh was killed, I saw celebrations from some corners... the prime minister of my country supported them by remaining silent. He may not have said anything but his silence speaks."
His statements at the conclave went viral on social media and as usual the actor got both brickbats and bouquets.
Hats off to Prakash Raj for speaking clearly & plainly. 'I am not anti Hindu. I am anti Modi & Amit Shah. According to me they are not Hindus. Hindus don't preach killing' https://t.co/WHfPX1t6tA— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) January 18, 2018
#prakashRaj surely knows Hinduism's essence is #Brahmandam where there's no " me" or "other." Says "They say I'm an anti-Hindu...No, I am anti-Modi, I am anti-Hegde, I am anti-Amit Shah & according to me, they are not Hindus." #ego #ahankar #ignorance— Chitra Subramaniam (@chitraSD) January 18, 2018
Prakash Raj might be a villain in movies but he is a HERO in my eyes for raising his voice against the tyranny of Fascist BJP...!! https://t.co/A26sS7uJXE— Soul Speaks (@soulspeek) January 18, 2018
Am anti Prakash raj and according to me he is not a human...— Ramesh Babu (@actuallycitizen) January 18, 2018
It is definitely not easy to speak so fearlessly and convincingly like Prakash Raj does.
Like his films, Prakash Raj -- whether he dons the role of a protagonist, villain or character artist -- in real life too the actor has proven himself to be a "hero" who is not scared of speaking truth to power.