Richa’s distasteful reference to the 2020 Galwan clash with Chinese troops as a response to army commander’s statement on taking Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) back has angered Indians and emotional responses have been pouring in. “Ambushed with clubs wrapped in barbed wire, attacked with iron rods, 20 of India’s bravest held their ground, until they were swallowed by the freezing Galwan river, but not before they took down 45 intruders. Don’t let your hatred for Modi transmogrify into hatred for India,” tweeted author Anand Ranganathan.
Calling it a new low for the actor, Supreme Court lawyer Sashank Sekhar Jha tweeted, “20 Indian brave-hearts sacrificed their life for India in Galwan, but here is an Urduwood actor mocking the Indian Army. Not only sad but shameful.”
This is not the first a not-so-famous Bollywood actor has displayed symptoms of foot-in-the mouth disease.
Bollywood actors have been often caught making nonsensical remarks about politics, national security and issues they have no real understanding about. They whole-heartedly participate in the creation of fake narratives.
Late actor Om Puri commented that people lay down their lives in the army because they are paid to do so, that there is no valour and courage and one should not make heroes out of them. “No one has forced anyone to join the army,” he had remarked.
After the Ayodhya verdict when all Hindus were rejoicing the resolution of the decades long bitter conflict and the prospect of a grand Ram Mandir being built, actor Tapsee Pannu tweeted, “Ho gya bus. Ab?”.
Swara Bhaskar is famous for making comments which have nothing to do either with Bollywood or arts. Responding to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in May of 2021 she made a mischievous tweet equating Taliban and Hindu right-wing. “We can’t be okay with Hindutva terror & be all shocked & devastated at Taliban terror.. & We can’t be chill with #Taliban terror; and then be all indignant about #Hindutva terror! Our humanitarian & ethical values should not be based on the identity of the oppressor or oppressed,” she wrote.
The ill-informed tweet where she in one broad stroke equated dangerous Global Islamic terror forces with the excesses of Hindu fringe drew the ire of Indians, particularly Hindus, who have had no record of committing any terror act anywhere in the world. Such tweets by small-time actors who create social media noise disproportionate to their stature as actors forces one to ask the question if churning out tweets to rile up people is a “side gig” for them.
National security is a sensitive issue, just as it is an expert domain. There is no harm in expressing one’s opinion on issues of national import, but to use the army to stay in limelight and get retweets, or send out feelers to rival political parties about one’s availability to be co-opted in their cause and given space for relevance and power is obnoxiously self-serving.
Following a major backlash on her Galwan tweet, actor Richa Chaddha issued an apology. “Even though it can never be my intention in the least, if the 3 words which are being dragged into a controversy have offended or hurt anyone, I apologise,” she wrote.
In her defence she said that she could never hurt the feeling of “her brothers in fauj (army)” as her family members have been part of the armed forces. “It would sadden me if even unintentionally my words have triggered this feeling in my brothers in the fauj (army) of which my own Nanaji has been an illustrious part. As a Lt. Col, he took a bullet in the leg in the Indo-China war, in the 1960s. My Mamaji was a paratrooper. It’s in my blood.” Richa’s apology tweet mentions that she understands the pain of a family of martyrs and that it’s an emotive issue for her.