The Kartarpur corridor has seen many positive responses by the Indian population, even from some of the most radical members of the Baharatiya Janta Party (BJP). The radical, Anti-Pakistan Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, himself extended his gratitude to the Prime Minister of Pakistan for this initiative. However, one particular character that has abruptly caught attention during the inauguration of the corridor is Mr. Ajay Singh Deol. Mr. Ajay, who astonishingly happens to also be a current member of the Indian Parliament, is more commonly recognized by his stage name – Sunny Deol.
Sunny Deol has been a famous actor in Bollywood and his works have been widely viewed, both in India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, however, some of his roles in Indian films have been met with controversy given the anti-Pakistani inclination contained. Mr. Deol has often been seen starring in movies that promulgate propaganda against Pakistan and generally convince viewers to despise the country, portraying the antagonists as typical villains and deriving their roots from Pakistan. The traits affiliated with these characters are a highly stereotypical portrayal of “Pakistanis” and are often grossly exaggerated to criminalize the Pakistani identity. In some movies, a one sided depiction of post partition violence is on display whilst in others a typical scene is set with the antagonist being a Muslim terrorist. These movies systematically indoctrinate ideas that not only demonize the image of Pakistanis but also Muslims at large. Therefore, it should not come as a shock to readers that when Mr. Deol took to joining politics in April 2019, he stood for Member Parliament with a Baharatiya Janta Party (BJP) ticket and was successfully elected as part of the “Hindustani” Lok Sabha.
Mr. Deol must probably never have reflected on his role in Anti-Pakistan propaganda before and hence never recognized his part in the promotion of violence between the two countries by instigating Indian viewers’ sentiments through film. However, as aforementioned, Mr. Deol was one of the witnesses of the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor. In media footage covering the incident, he can clearly be seen seated on stage next to the Pakistani Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr. Usman Buzdar. The expression worn by Mr. Deol has been the subject of debate and parody in social media with many Pakistani users explicitly pointing to and joking about how he must reflect on his former role in propaganda against Pakistan.
It is important to note that there are severe ongoing tensions between the two countries and the Kashmir issue has sparked escalation in disagreements. The year 2019 has seen intense clashes between the two countries. Back in February, there was mild direct military conflict between the two countries and Pakistan shot down an intruding Indian fighter aircraft. Pakistan instantly returned the pilot back to India after his subsequent arrest by Pakistani Defence Forces. Now, on the one hand, the Indian government continues to persecute the Kashmiri people with almost a hundred days marking the longest curfew in history, whilst on the other, Pakistan opened the Kartarpur corridor to promote regional peace and facilitate the Sikh community in India.
Time and again, the Hindustani BJP led government has cashed in on anti-Pakistan sentiment to win votes from people that have been misguided and needlessly radicalized through media and film via works similar to those of Mr. Deol’s. In contrast, Pakistan seems to have successfully once more pulled through and reached out to the humanity within the Indian population and even the Indian government. Mr. Deol has openly declared his gratitude towards the Pakistani Government and has praised this act of goodwill, calling for future bilateral initiatives to resemble this. He has stated, in front of Indian media, that he was warmly received in Pakistan and is overwhelmed with the love he witnessed. His confession comes as an irony to many, given his former role in indirectly facilitating radicalization and the current political standing of his party.
It may be high time that Mr. Deol and his political party finally reflect on their disregard for peace and their role in increasing friction in already existent regional conflict. The opening of the corridor has evidently touched hearts deep within India, some even among the coldest. The ordeal goes to show that whether it be subject matter for jokes or be a serious call for Mr. Deol and Hindustanis sharing similar views to him to ponder upon what they have been promoting, the Kartarpur Corridor opening is truly coherent to wise sayings that declare winning people over through peace and goodwill rather than war and intimidation.