After being accused of being a Congress supporter and a member of the "tukde tukde gang", actress Deepika Padukone has now been asked to stay in Bombay and dance by a Bharatiya Janata Party leader.
Ever since Padukone decided to show her solidarity for protesting Jawaharlal Nehru University students following an attack by masked goons inside the campus, the Bollywood actor has been hit with a storm of trolling and criticism. And while the incident has divided opinions within the film fraternity as well with her fans on social media, some of the most stinging comments have come from politicians, many of whom belong to the ruling dispensation.
Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh, Gopal Bhargava took a dig at the actress, stating that Padukone should have stayed in Mumbai and danced instead of visiting JNU.
"Heroine ko toh apna dance karna chahiye Mumbai mein baith ke. JNU mein kyun jana chahiye tha usko, mere samajh nahi aa raha. Is prakar ke darjano log ho gaye hain jo activist, artist kehlate hain (A heroine should remain in Mumbai and dance. I can't understand why she had to go to JNU. There are dozens of such people who now call themselves activists and artistes)," Times of India quoted Bhargava as saying.
While the comment drew sharp criticism from other politicians as well as netizens on social media, he isn't the only one.
One of the first politicians to start circulating calls for boycott of Chappakk, which released on Friday, as well as the actress was Bharatiya Janata Party's Delhi Unit spokesperson Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga. The founder of the fringe group Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena who commands a large number of followers and right-wing supporters on Twitter wasted no time in churning the wheels of trolling into action.
Another politician to join the fray of detractors was union minister Smriti Irani. Speaking at a newspaper's conclave, Irani said that her standing behind JNU Student Union president Aishe Ghosh and former president and Communist Party of India member Kanhaiya Kumar, may have come as a shock to many of her "admirers" and those who watched her films. However Irani claimed those who "followed the news" would have already known.
"She made her political affiliation known in 2011 that she supports the Congress Party," Irani said. She was referring to a 2011 interview that has been going viral on social media ever since right wing trolls targeted Padukone for her stand. In the interview, given to Doordarshan, Padukone had said that she admired Rahul Gandhi and would like to see him become Prime Minister some day.
While the interview was given back in 2011 when the Indian National Congress government was still in power, trolls started to publicise the video in order to give a political spin on her presence at JNU, an act that has divided public opinion about the actress and even led to hashtags such as #BoycottChappakk and #BlockDeepika becoming top trends on social media.
Further targeting the actress, Irani claimed, "(she) knew that she was standing with people who wanted the destruction of India, knew that she was standing with people who celebrate every time a CRPF jawan is killed. She stood next to them, that is her right. I'm not denying her the right".
Apart from Irani, BJP leaders like Ram Kadam have also lamented Padukone's solidarity with JNU students. Calling it "unfortunate", the leader told news agency ANI, "an actor should be an actor. It seems like she is the spokesperson of a political party".
Ironically, on January 5 itself, Union Minister Piyush Goyal had hosted a dinner in Mumbai inviting members of Bollywood to discuss the "myths and realities" pertaining to the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Though most industry bigwigs sat the meeting out, others such as Ranvir Shorey, Shaan were present.
The BJP also launched a video featuring some of these B-Towners speaking in support of the recently passed CAA, an Act that has divided the film fraternity with many such as Padukone choosing to speak out against it and in support of the anti-CAA protests taking place across the country.
Critics of the establishment also pointed out that these politicians never ask actors speaking in support of their policies such as the Manikarnika star Kangana Ranaut (who is often vocal about her support for the BJP government) or Paresh Rawal to not talk about political issues.
Nevertheless, Padukone has also received a sea of support from all ends including fans, politicians and members of the film fraternity. In MP itself, the Kamal Nath government has announced Chappakk, the Meghna Gulzar film based on an acid attack survivor that released this Friday, as tax free. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Kumar has even booked an entire movie theatre to showcase the film.
On Sunday, a number of masked goons with metal rods in their hands entered the JNU campus in the capital and assualted students as well as teachers. They vandalised property and hostels including rooms in Sabarmati hostel. At least 35 persons were injured in the attack including professors. The incident outraged the nation and several cities witnessed protests against campus violence as well as police and government inaction in keeping students safe in the face of threat.
No arrests have so far been made following the incident.