A day after millions lit lamps to observe Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a show of unity in the war against coronavirus, actor-politician Kamal Haasan criticized what he called "psychotherapy techniques" and "warm and fuzzy campaigning" while ignoring "actionables" that can save lives.
"We will comply to your wishes and orders but our compliance must not be confused as our subjugation," Kamal Haasan, the chief of Makkal Needhi Maiam, said in a sharply-worded open letter to PM Modi. He said the "ill-planned lockdown" would hit the poorest, like the 2016 demonetization did.
"My biggest fear is that the same mistake of demonetisation is being repeated albeit at a much bigger scale. While demonetisation led to loss of savings and livelihood of the poorest, this ill-planned lockdown is leading us to a fatal combination of loss of both life and livelihood," wrote the 65-year-old south star.
"On one hand you are asking the more privileged people to put up a spectacle of lights while on the other hand the poor man's plight is itself becoming a shameful spectacle. While your world lit up oil diyas in their balconies, the poor are struggling to gather enough oil to bake their next roti... These psychotherapy techniques can address the first world anxiety problems of the haves' who have a balcony to cheer. But what about those who don't even have a roof on their heads? I am sure you don't want to be a balcony government only for the balcony people by completely ignoring the poor who are biggest constituent of our society, our support system and the foundation on which the middle-class, the well-to-do and the rich build their lives."
Kamal Haasan also charged, "every time we have a feeling India had a chance to arrest the slide, you seem to be sliding into your comfort zone of unleashing a spirited election-style campaign idea…The focus on merely keeping people's spirits alive through warm and fuzzy campaigning is probably leading your establishment into ignoring certain actionables that could actually save lives."
He accused the PM Modi of announcing a lockdown without any plan or preparation. Visionary leaders, he remarked, were those who worked on solutions long before problems became big.
"I am sorry to say that sir, this time your vision failed… I dare anyone to call me an anti-national this time. The common populace cannot be blamed for being ill-prepared for a crisis of this magnitude but you can be and shall be blamed for this."
Kamal Haasan ended the two-page letter with the parting shot: "We are angry but we are still on your side." In a previous letter, he had asked for a bailout package to protect the jobs of those in the unorganized sector, including migrants, hit by the coronavirus shutdown.