In The News



by HUMRA QURAISHI July 2 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins, 49 secs

In a time of global tensions, Shatrughan Sinha’s dignified presence at his daughter Sonakshi’s wedding contrasts sharply with his political journey, shedding light on his steadfast friendships and complex choices within the often divisive landscape of Indian politics, writes Humra Quraishi.

In May 2024, news reports emerged detailing that the Spanish Foreign Minister announced Spain's refusal to allow a ship carrying arms from Chennai to Israel to dock at one of its ports. According to Spanish media, the Denmark-flagged cargo ship Marianne Danica sailed from Chennai on April 8 and was headed to the port of Haifa in Israel. Reports also indicated that a second cargo ship from India was denied entry to the port of Cartagena on May 21. Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Marianne Danica left Chennai en route to Haifa with a cargo of 27 tonnes of explosives. Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares confirmed in a news conference that the vessel was denied entry because it was transporting military cargo to Israel.

In June 2024, several news reports surfaced suggesting that on June 6, following Israel’s bombing of a United Nations shelter at the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, the Quds News Network released a video showing the remains of a missile dropped by Israeli warplanes with 'Made in India' labels on it.

This situation raises concerns about the role of the Right-Wing government in the ongoing war in Palestine, where hundreds and thousands of Palestinians are being killed and devastated. The barbaric and ruthless killings in and around Gaza are difficult to describe and are having a profound psychological impact on those left alive, who are forced to witness these mass atrocities against fellow human beings.

In these brutal times, a glimmer of hope emerges from the actions of students and the youth in India, who are beginning to react. Sandeep Pandey of the Socialist Party of India shared a note from a young student, Shreyam Sharma:

“Dear Sandeep Sir,

Hope you are doing well and healthy.

I am writing to you with a special request. A few days ago, as part of an initiative by a group of students, including me and Akhil, we sent a petition to the NALSAR administration to cut ties with the Israeli Universities [Tel Aviv & Radzyner School of Law] as part of the Palestinian BDS movement. A total of 362 signatories, including 275 LLB [Batch of 2024-2028], LLM, and DoMS students, 70 Alumni, and 12 Faculty Members, the Student Body’s Executive Council, and endorsements from multiple eminent personalities, supported the petition. It has now been sent to the Administration.”


Shatrughan Sinha is in the news again, but this time not for political reasons. He and his spouse Poonam looked graceful at their daughter Sonakshi’s wedding reception. Shatrughan Sinha is one of those actors-turned-politicians who is held in high regard in Bollywood. Years ago, every time I interviewed Sunil Dutt, he would make it a point to tell me that only four Bollywood personalities stood by him and his family when his son Sanjay Dutt was arrested and TADA cases were slapped on him. “Only Dilip Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, Rajendra Kumar, and Pran saab were there with me and my family…also some members from the South India Film Chambers. Nobody else.”

Many years later, when I interviewed Saira Banu, she also spoke highly of Shatrughan Sinha. She told me that whenever a crisis hits, he is there. She also detailed that he, along with Dilip Kumar saab, was there with Sunil Dutt when Sanjay was arrested and the family was going through tough times.

It is relevant to mention my meeting with Shatrughan Sinha for an interview. I met and interviewed him in 1992 in New Delhi when he was contesting as a BJP candidate from the New Delhi constituency. He entered politics, joining the BJP in 1980, and made his electoral debut in 1992, contesting against fellow actor Rajesh Khanna in the by-election to the New Delhi constituency. (He lost to Rajesh Khanna, the Congress candidate, by 25,000 votes.)

In 1992, it was rather tough finding Sinha’s whereabouts, but once that was over, the rest wasn’t too difficult. It took me five days to find out where he was staying in New Delhi and his contact telephone numbers. Finally, his brother, Dr Lakhan Sinha, gave the time for the interview at their apartment at the erstwhile controversial building ‘White House’ (then situated close to the Mandi House complex).

As I arrived there at the appointed time, I met Shatrughan Sinha in the lift itself, which took us up to the eleventh floor where his apartment was situated. Before I could start with my queries, I noticed huge yellow marks on his kurta. He quickly explained, “Oh no! This saffron scarf has left these marks…but this isn’t some BJP scarf but a ‘saropa’ given to me at the gurdwara I just visited…just returning from there.”

Throughout the hour-long interview, I kept wondering why he had decided to join the BJP, as he seemed somewhat of a misfit in it. To my query about why he joined the BJP given its communal agenda, he exclaimed, “What communal! See, I’m not communal. See my track record…I’m friendly with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. I have been friendly with the late Pakistani Prime Minister, General Zia, so much so that for any of their family functions, I am invited by them. Then, I’m friendly with some families in Saudi Arabia…These are my personal friendships…I don’t believe in who is a Hindu, a Musalmaan, or a Christian…I just believe in Insaniyat.”

If he truly believes in this Insaniyat theory, then why didn’t he join any other political party? Why did he opt to join the BJP? With his broad-minded views and a rather liberal approach, was he facing problems in the BJP? “No, no…Why! They know me…I have so many friends in the Press, and they all come to me and tell me they like me but not my BJP party! Bhai, did any God have a one hundred percent following!”

When asked who he considers his leader, he promptly replied, “My wife! Actually, all husbands are henpecked. Some say so, some don’t, but all are. But seriously speaking, without Poonam, I am handicapped!” He told me that she decides on his clothes and what he ought to wear. “Even this kurta, Poonam picked up from a boutique! First time I am wearing it today…generally, I wear plain ones…I don’t believe in colours or motifs or embroidered or showy stuff…no showy stuff or exhibitionism.”

As the interview progressed, I asked him his views on the Ayodhya temple and the Babri masjid. He said, “With due respect, if any masjid can be relocated in Saudi Arabia or in Pakistan, so why not here? Of course, we did so with the consent of our Muslim brothers and for the sake of communal harmony…Big brother should give in…”

In this case, the big brother here is the Majority community. Comment. “Yes, yes…But if that temple means ‘Mecca’ or ‘Medina’ to the Hindus, so can’t the Muslims give in…There are 26 other mosques in and around Faizabad, and nobody is asking for them; only this one, for it’s a matter of faith.”

But it’s said that the BJP has plans of ‘converting’ 30 other mosques into temples. Comment. “I wouldn’t let that happen. Only this one and no further…I promise…I say this with folded hands.”

Even if this promise proves to be too costly for your political career or ambitions? “Yes, at any cost…I will stand by my promise…always do.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.