Priyanka Chopra proudly wears many sparkling medallions – including grand titles and awards like Ms. World, Padma Shri (India’s fourth highest civilian award), Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, People’s Choice Award, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and recently, self proclaimed accreditation for being a ‘humanitarian’. From this list of powerful and influential accolades, America’s newfound sweetheart has been lambasted for the latter.
Chopra is not unfamiliar with controversy. Her apparent ease with the right wing slaughterer (who also happens to be the Prime Minister of India) behind the schismatic, premeditated 2002 Gujrat Massacre and insensitive, glamour-ridden selfies taken at a Holocaust memorial captioned “..being tourists. There is such an eerie silence here” have caused uproars in the past.
This time, however, it was different because the particular moment at Beautycon, which turned out to be quite revealing, was not a subsequent pandemonium at her posing in an outfit embellished with inconsiderate (towards refugees and immigrants) locutions for a magazine cover or her wedding invitation to a radical extremist, but rather a testing situation being watched live by Chopra’s many admirers. For a woman who has won hearts all over the world, this is one test that she indignantly failed at.
In what could have been a patriotic, yet respectful reply, or even polite refusal to answer Malik’s question, Chopra chose to shield herself with jingoism while condescending Malik in a magisterial manner
For argument’s sake, one might consider Beautycon to be a non-political event focusing on beauty, but in her rationalisation Ayesha Malik claims that it was Chopra’s supposedly altruistic comment on ‘loving one’s neighbour’ that rekindled her memory of Chopra’s tweet from February 26th. At an event that Forbes has described as “a world of depth, of character and heart”, Chopra’s definitions of philanthropy and love were suddenly questioned, and for the right reasons.
It does not take a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadorship to be anything but a passive onlooker when a microphone is recklessly snatched away from an audience member or for someone who constantly inundates social media with pictures of orphaned children from war-zones to realise that two nations, one of which is her own, armed with nuclear bombs might just end up with millions of children homeless, orphaned and dead in a matter of seconds during exacerbated conflict. It is a real threat, given the dire situation in Indian occupied Kashmir, one of the most militarised regions in the world having recently been seized of its seven decade long special status.
In what could have been a patriotic, yet respectful reply, or even polite refusal to answer Malik’s question, Chopra chose to shield herself with jingoism while condescending Malik in a magisterial manner.
The question here should not even be what nationalism is about. The question should be what intrinsic beauty is about. Be it Ms. World or Beautycon, beauty should not be about makeup and superficial looks because that would give out a wrong message. There should be more to beauty. It is not about taking pictures with the underprivileged to prove that one is a dutiful ambassador of peace or a beautiful person. It is about responsibly promoting peace in times of potential war and showing civility when being asked a question at a public forum. Is that too much to ask for?
The point is to expect celebrities, especially UNICEF Ambassadors to be loyal to their nation, as long as their loyalty does not conceivably jeopardise anyone’s life
The damage is beyond repair at this point because the world is asking for something else, something more: dismissal. Some say that politics is unrelated to Chopra’s field, but then perhaps the UN should designate representees who are from a political background and are capable of diffusing difficult encounters or at least people who know the non-belligerent meaning of ‘patriotism’ – which itself is a political term.
It is significant, when considering the role of a peace promoter, to redefine the idea of concord. Peace does not always equate justice. If (the Indian state of) Gujrat is in tranquility right now for example, that does not mean it has been dealt with fairly. On the contrary, it has been a target of some of the most horrific pogroms in Indian history, which did not even spare Muslim children. In this case and of course in regards to IOC Kashmir, people in Chopra’s position should not remain conveniently or coincidentally taciturn. It is a UN representative’s duty to administer and advocate for peace and justice; peace without justice is simply a facade.
Keeping in mind that Chopra has a whole new magnitude of global influence compared to other warmongering Indian celebrities, her defensiveness and support for the Indian state’s air raid in the Pakistani territory of Balakot, which was categorised as serious, hostile trespassing and her silence over absolute barbarism in Indian occupied Kashmir indicates that she chooses the possibility, even if it is a faint possibility, of nuclear war over her only job as a UN appointee: peace.
In an atmosphere of cruel zealotry, the UN should choose wisely when selecting spokespersons from Modi’s India
The UN has delivered a statement saying that ambassadors have the right to speak in “personal capacity”. Nonetheless, Malik very clearly addressed Chopra as a UNICEF worker which makes the context of her question very clear. It was a professional query aimed towards a UN Ambassador, not a personal debate with an actor. Accordingly, Chopra was not just speaking for herself when answering Malik; there was a lot more at stake.
The solution coming out of this frenzy is not to expect an Indian to turn their back on their state and support a rival neighbour; that would be too naive. The point is to expect celebrities, especially UNICEF Ambassadors to be loyal to their nation, as long as their loyalty does not conceivably jeopardise anyone’s life, especially not children – be it Kashmiri, Indian or Pakistani children.
In contemporary India, the notion of faithfulness to one’s polity is rapidly becoming interchangeable with divisiveness in caste and creed. In an atmosphere of cruel zealotry, the UN should choose wisely when selecting spokespersons from Modi’s India. It is the UN, not a fascist right wing regime, that should be represented after all.