Days after actor-politician Kamal Haasan joined Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Delhi, a video of his interaction with the Congress leader was released on Monday, 2 January.
The two leaders discussed politics, Mahatma Gandhi, Tamil Nadu and China, among other things.
In the video, the bonhomie between Gandhi and Haasan was hard to miss. The Congress leader gifted a photograph — clicked by his nephew— of a tiger drinking water from a river to Haasan, and suggested that the actor-politician’s approach and attitude were like that of the majestic animal.
The two leaders met even as speculations are rife about whether Haasan’s party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam — or Centre for People’s Justice — would join the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance in Tamil Nadu ahead of the 2024 general elections. The Congress is an alliance partner.
Gandhi, ‘Hey Ram’ and politics of hate
The actor-politician said he decided to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra since he felt it was his “duty” as an Indian to voice his “anguish and apprehension” over the developments in the country.
It would not have been fair to stay away from the yatra since the Gandhis had walked through “sweat, tears and blood”, and saw “history unfolding from the inner circle”.
He explained how he had rediscovered Mahatma Gandhi over the years.
“My father was a Congress man. But my environment made me a bitter critic of Gandhiji when I was in my teens. My father did not say anything. He said “just read history”… Around the age of 24-25, I discovered Gandhiji on my own. Over the years, I become a fan,” Haasan said.
The Tamil Nadu leader added that his film Hey Ram was an attempt to “say sorry” to “my Bapu” and “correct myself”.
Haasan played the role of a parallel assassin, who wanted to kill the Mahatma but backed out at the last moment after learning more about the Father of the Nation, in the 2000 movie.
“I have to take responsibility for all the crimes, including what happened to your (Rahul Gandhi) family. We let it happen,” he said.
While pointing out that an assassination “can never be the answer”, the Tamil leader also described it as the “worst form of criticism”.
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Of Tamil Nadu and its identity
The discussion turned to Tamil people and Tamil identity when Gandhi expressed a wish to know more about Tamil Nadu.
“Being a Tamilian means the same as being a Maharashtrian or a Telugu or a Malayali. We all have our pride…. At a particular point, it was felt that there was apathy from the Centre towards Tamil Nadu. That happens. It happens with every government. They (the Tamils) are unhappy with what’s happening now,” Haasan told Gandhi.
On the importance of the Tamil language in society, he highlighted that even “non-religious and Godless people” in the state “worship” Tamil.
A conversation between two proud Indians. All other identities blur when it comes to the Nation . @rahulgandhi
Have a great united Indian new year. https://t.co/TyGHi6ZVPh
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) January 2, 2023
China and the need for a global security outlook
The conversation soon veered towards China and related security concerns.
Underlining that India should adopt a holistic view when it comes to the security of the country, Gandhi said that India should have a “global view” of security in the 21st century, considering how external threats are not confined to the borders but also extend within the country through cyber warfare and other such attacks.
The Congress leader has been vociferously attacking the Union Government over the Chinese incursions across the Indian border.
“In the 21st century, one has to have a global view of security. That’s where I think our government has gone wrong and miscalculated,” Gandhi explained.
“We constantly hear what’s going on at the borders. The fact is, China has taken over 2,000 sq km of our territory. We haven’t said anything. The Prime Minister hasn’t said anything,” he pointed out.
“The military has clearly stated that the Chinese are sitting inside our territory. But the PM said nobody had come in. This sends a clear message to China that they can do whatever they want and India will not respond. It destroys our negotiating position,” he added.
‘Hey Ram’, Khadi, Films and how only India, not the West, can take on China!
My conversation with @ikamalhaasan on what shapes Indian politics and culture.https://t.co/RiUNzGdE1k pic.twitter.com/lWUtiTd2xx
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 2, 2023
Security and internal harmony
The Congress leader further emphasised that the security of a country is linked to “internal cohesion” and “harmony”.
“The single most important thing is that a country should have internal cohesion — that there is harmony in the country, that people are not fighting, that there is peace in the country and the country has a vision. The point is not about going to war. It’s about being in a position where you cannot be attacked,” Gandhi stated.
He added: “There is a link between a weak economy, a confused nation without vision, hatred and anger, and the Chinese sitting in our territory. Because they know we are dealing with internal matters, internal confusion and a lack of harmony. So they think they can come in and do whatever they want.”
Gandhi also drew parallels between the Chinese strategy and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“What the Russians have done in Ukraine is that they said that they will not accept Ukraine’s strong relationship with the West and if you do so, we will alter your geography,” he explained.
“The same principle can be applied in India. What the Chinese are saying to us is, be careful with what you are doing, because otherwise, we will alter your geography by entering Ladakh and Arunachal,” he elaborated.
Gandhi also took on the Central government, accusing it of not discussing issues of national importance with Opposition parties and not taking into account their advice or suggestions.
India — the only answer to China
Both leaders agreed that, unlike the West, only India has the potential to take on China in terms of economy and large-scale manufacturing.
“I believe India can take on the Chinese. What do you need to take on the Chinese? You need a young population, a large number of people, you need a large educated base,” Gandhi said.
“If you look at the West, they have got too much. They are flabby. They are living in opulence. And they outsource. Whereas our people know what struggle is and they understand difficulties. I see a huge opportunity for India to become like China,” he added.