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Big News: When Kangana Ranaut describes India independence as ‘Bheekh’, know what happened

Big News: When Kangana Ranaut describes India independence as 'bheekh', know what happened
Big News: When Kangana Ranaut describes India independence as 'bheekh', know what happened
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She drew applause from a bunch of corporate figures and publicists at a summit organised by TimesNow, the news channel

The harangue builds… then abruptly it is over…. As the audience continues its tumultuous applause, Hitler smooths his hair in a steady, unhurried motion….

What is one to make of this decades later? To many in Germany in 1933, the speech was inspirational. Today, it is associated with the Holocaust.

From Hitler’s Movement Signature by Martha Davis and Dianne Dulicai

The applause lingered like a bad odour.

More than who said it or what was said, the applause spoke louder and clearer on Wednesday when Kangana Ranaut described India’s independence as “bheekh (alms)” and sought to project 2014 as the year in which the republic attained freedom.

The platform could not have been more mainstream. The audience could not have been more mainstream. They represented the very Establishment that flowered and flourished, not in the past seven years but over the nearly 75 years since August 15, 1947.

Ranaut drew applause from a bunch of corporate figures and publicists at a summit organised by TimesNow, the news channel.

The applause started when Ranaut, responding to TimesNow’s Navika Kumar on a question about V.D. Savarkar, said: “What is secular? Secular is no-man’s land. Not yours, not mine, everybody’s. It is no-man’s land, right? Because they are what British left behind in the name of Congress. They were the extension of the British.”

The loud claps rose from the back, and a few from the front tables too.

Ranaut then moved on to V.D. Savarkar and eventually said: “Woh azadi nahi thi, woh bheekh thi; aur jo azadi mili hai woh 2014 mein mili hai (That was not freedom, that was alms; and what freedom we got, we got in 2014.)”

This drew even more applause.

Earlier during the interaction, Ranaut had said that for her family, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the “biggest superstar there will ever be”.

On Thursday, amid questions on social media why no one, not even Kumar, was seen contesting Ranaut, TimesNow tweeted a clip of the “bheekh” statement and said: “The question asked was about Savarkar, but the response was on a different matter. Navika Kumar then followed up with a question about whether Kangana was expressing her loyalty to the BJP, and Kangana responded by saying she’s a patriot. Here’s the complete viral sequence.”

On Friday, two days after the session, TimesNow tweeted: “Kangana Ranaut may think India got Independence in 2014 but this cannot be endorsed by any true Indian. This is an insult to millions of freedom fighters who gave up their lives so that present generations can live a life of self-respect & dignity as free citizens of a democracy.”

Actress Swara Bhasker had tweeted: “Who are the idiots who are clapping is what I want to know.”

So far, few have stood up to be counted. But that need not mean they are idiots.

Aditya Mukherjee, retired professor of contemporary history from Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The Telegraph: “What Kangana Ranaut is saying is not a fringe opinion; she is reflecting the opinion of the mainstream ruling forces today.”

Mukherjee explained: “On the one hand, interpretations of history have been used by ruling regimes to legitimise their rule and their policies, as it has been used by social movements, both progressive and reactionary, to defend positions taken by them. On the other hand, doing complete violence to the majesty of the discipline of history, its ‘procedures’ and ‘discourse of proof’, total falsification or ‘invention’ of facts and the substituting of facts with faith, beliefs and mythology have been resorted to by political forces. This is what we are witnessing today.”

He added: “Their current star Savarkar begged multiple times for forgiveness from the British and promised to remain loyal if he was released…. An estimated 10,000 people died in the Quit India Movement. Many, many more, including the entire leadership of the Congress, were put in jail while the communal forces were allying with imperialism.”

G. Arunima, director of the Kerala Council of Historical Research, said Ranaut seemed to have “overstepped her script” at a time the government was celebrating the 75th year of Independence.

“Congress-bashing appears to be her only way to speak…. What marks 2014 was the way the Congress was pushed back in a fundamental way, dismantled like it had never been before.”

Others see a generation trapped in the past and dictated to by faith.

Historian S. Irfan Habib, former Abul Kalam Azad Chair at the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, said: “It is an extreme form of illiteracy, bigotry and blindness to the past and the present…. She is so enamoured of an ideology and an individual that she sees the world through blinkered glasses. She has created her own world and imagined her own past and lives in it.”

He added: “This is particularly a problem in South Asia. Even more regressive parts of the world like West Asia are opening up, even establishing relations with Israel — irrespective of what the regime does — because they recognise that the economy and better foreign relations are the way to prosperity. But here our past and religions are becoming more important even as the economy goes to the dogs, people die of government negligence. There is a rise in both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism.”

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