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‘Kus Bani Koshur Crorepati’: using entertainment as soft power

‘Kus Bani Koshur Crorepati’: using entertainment as soft power
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Basharat Islam

Industrial Capitalism, two world wars, and the economic depression had devastated everything in the world, principally peace and mental steadiness. Horror engrossed every human soul and nothing looked beautiful. The world populace required something to sooth them, which could bring them out of the psychological trauma, that the combats, bereavements, and destruction had produced into them. The likes of Charlie Chaplin were the fruits that this “inevitability of carrying people out of horror”. So has been the case of Kashmir wherein the folk songs and street dancers emerged during the early modern era to sooth people out of the pain that the intolerant and oppressive regimes carried on them for centuries. Nazir Josh and his likes got recognition in recent times for the same reason. These dancers and theatre performers tried to bring Kashmir out of the agony and aching that they faced every day in the hands of rulers.

However, these comedians, entertainers, theatre dancers, and folk-song choral groups were virtuous lest they turned apparatuses for political benefit. The cinema and theatre were good for the African slaves in western world till it used to entertain them and make them forget the soreness they faced day in and day out in the tea plantations and agricultural fields of West. But once this became a system of looting their hard earned money and an instrument of preventing the drain of wealth into Africa, it turned bad. Similar is the case of Kashmir. Till these entertainment programs are apolitical, they are good. Once they are politicized, these turn bad.

But how can an entertainment program be a tool of politics, and is the politicisation of entertainment a bad idea always, or has its merits as well, is what must rise in the mind of the reader? The Coke Studio of Pakistan is the best example in this case. Coke studio Pakistan was introduced as an entertainment program in the era of General Pervez Musharraf to provide a podium to the citizens to prove their melodious mettle. However, since its earlier days Coke Studio in Pakistan while westernizing the social setup of Pakistan also focussed on the rise of artists from disturbed areas of Pakistan like Baluchistan. In fact, most of the songs even currently are very much from the troubled area belt. This is for the reason of what we call as “soft-power” technique to overcome the political adversaries without overpowering them through use of force. Plus, the entertainment program also helped Pakistan to create a better image in the world, for they till then were known only for the ‘pugnacious activities” within and outside Pakistan and this entertainment program helped the world to think about the country’s ‘talent’ and ‘ability’ in the other spheres. Such politicization of the entertainment while, on the one hand, has benefits for one party makes the other party lose and thus stand on toes. Thus such politicization is bad for one and good for others, depending on the aspirations and objectives that such a politicization works for.

Pertinent to mention here is that entertainment as a political tool has a long history and is one of the soft powers used to curb the enemy acts and activities. While “Operation Blue Star” substantially forced the Khalistan supporters to come to terms with Government, it was the use of various soft power modes that brought the movement to its knees, which included the introduction of modern lifestyle, the rise of Pollywood, café culture and the easy black-marketing of narcotics. It was these tools which busied the youth into the activities other than politics and brought a U-turn into their lifestyle, thinking, and aspirations.
In the case of Kashmir, the use of hard power and soft power has been going simultaneously since the accession of the state with the Union of India and more specifically after the emergence of Militancy in late eighties of 20th century, when holding guns and tossing grenades became the passion of the Kashmiri youth, to fulfil their Political aspirations. While physical force led to the killing of hundred thousand youth and hence gross human rights violations, the soft power techniques worked to bring down the aspirations of the people and make them feel the mainstream. The operation Sadhbhavana, all India tours for Kashmiri students, the holding of cricket tournaments by the army, the emergence of modern cafes, the rise of Kashwood and modernisation of the Kashmir music industry are few of these which are tools used to overpower the political aspirations of the Kashmiri population in general and youth in particular.

Similar is the case with the KBC’s Kashmiri version which was started with an aim of ‘promoting peace and patriotism in the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir’ on April 29, 2019, the idea that was conceived by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. KBC Kashmir is broadcasted on DD Kashir, a regional subsidiary television station of the government-owned Doordarshan in the state from Monday to Saturday at 8 pm. Pertinent to mention here would be that even the theory and practice of the show do not meet each other. Except for the name of the programme there is nothing Kashmiri in it. The language lacks Kashmiri sentiment, dialect, taste, feel and vocabulary. However, what is more, important is the political aim that the programme carries.

The idea of KBC was conceived by Government of India in March 2018 with the aim to promote democratic values, national unity, communal harmony, merits of secularism and patriotism, and also highlight the perils of fundamentalism. The programmes also show security forces in a positive light and highlight the development work undertaken by the government in Jammu and Kashmir,” (Peace and Patriotism’ on Mind, Kashmir Gets its Own ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’; News 18, April 30, 2019).

The participants are taken to New Delhi and their travel and accommodation expenses are covered. Interestingly, the Government claims that Kashmir crisis which has been under constant rise since last many years needs such programmes for the reason that “Such shows will deviate the youth’s attention and expose them to other cultures, which will help in bringing peace to the Valley” (News 18, April 30, 2019).

This is not the only programme that is telecasted on DD Kashir to promote patriotism and counter the ‘Pakistani Propaganda’ but previously the central Government made many other efforts to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and make them feel part of the mainstream. The Home Ministry previously decided to show blockbusters such as Amir Khan starred Dangal and Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan to spread happiness among the masses, for the reason that both of these movies had been widely appreciated for their message on ‘nationalism and love for India’. (Dangal, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Kashmiri KBC – Govt’s formula to woo Kashmiris; Economic Times September 11, 2017).

The question that needs to be debated is not whether the idea of KBC and the political aim behind it is good or bad, but more important is the picture that it presents before the world and the idea it presents. The land that has seen the dead bodies of hundred thousand of its nationals and continues to see two or three a day, where thousands of Desdemona’s are yet waiting upon their loved ones to take care of them, where orphanages and martyrs graveyards are in competition with each other, where a man misses the two armoured men and his library instead of the house that was gutted in a military operation, where the women are caged thousands of miles away in Tihar Jail, where social and religious organisations working for the benefit of poor people are banned. Does such a nation need a show that portrays happy faces, romantic ideas, and exultant lives? Why should the world feel that the nationals here live a happy and contented life when we are not?

The author is a graduate student from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He can be mailed at basharatislam17@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.

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