In a bid to perhaps placate the Hindu community after several controversial remarks or an attempt to drive a wedge in the community, screenwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar in an article in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana said that Hindus were the most “decent” and “tolerant” majority in the world. In the course of his article, he also pays obeisance to the head of the party, the mouthpiece of which he is writing in.
The piece was published on 14 September, days after Akhtar faced criticism from all quarters, including a Saamana editorial, after he equated the Taliban with right-wing groups Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
In a reference to former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had said that purification at late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s makeshift memorial after union minister Narayan Rane’s visit reflected the Shiv Sena’s “Talibani mindset”, Akhtar, without naming the BJP leader, said not even the worst critic of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray could accuse him of any discrimination or injustice.
The former MP, in an interview with a news channel on 3 September, had said, “Just like the Taliban want an Islamic State, there are those who want a Hindu Rashtra. These people are of the same mindset be it Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus.”
“Of course, the Taliban is barbaric and their actions are reprehensible, but those supporting RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal are the same.”
On 6 September, Saamana had published an editorial wherein it mildly criticised Akhtar, saying that linking RSS-VHP with Taliban is disrespectful towards Hindu culture.
Javed Akhtar, in Saamana, said he had faced a lot of criticism following his interview and this article was a way to respond to all.
“Recently I had said in an interview that Hindus are the most decent and tolerant majority in the whole world. I have also said many times that India can never become Afghanistan because Indians are naturally not fundamentalists. Being moderate and taking a balanced stand is in the DNA,” he said.
He, however, stood by his statement on similarities between the Taliban and the so-called right-wing mindset and said Taliban set up an Islamic state while the Hindu right-wing intends to form a Hindu Rashtra. Besides, like the Taliban, the right wing are curbing freedom of women, while .
“I see a lot of similarities between the Taliban mindset and the right-wing ideology. This has angered people but the reality is that there are truly many similarities. The Taliban are forming an Islamic government, the Hindu right-wing wants a Hindu Rashtra. The Taliban want to curb women’s rights, the Hindu right-wing has also made it clear that they don’t like the freedom of women and girls; from Uttar Pradesh to Karnataka and Gujarat, young men and women have been beaten mercilessly for sitting together in a restaurant or a garden or any public place,” he said.
In an indirect jab at Fadnavis, Akhtar said that it was interesting that while supporters of the Hindu right wing were upset with him, “one of their own prominent political leaders” says the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government has a “Talibani mindset”.
“I am not a member of any of the three parties which in a coalition are governing Maharashtra extremely well under the able chief ministership of Uddhav Thackeray. Today, his popularity in Maharashtra rivals that of Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu. Not even his worst critics can accuse him of any discrimination or injustice. How and why can anyone call Uddhav Thackeray’s government ‘Talibani’ is beyond my understanding,” he wrote.