Hindi film lyricist Manoj Muntashir was at the centre of a growing Twitter storm on Thursday with several colleagues in the industry and others slamming him for “seeding hatred” in a video in which he compares Mughal emperors to “dacoits”.
Muntashir, who has written lyrics for films such as Kesari and Bhuj: The Pride of India, had uploaded the controversial video titled “Who are your ancestors” on Twitter on August 24. Some people, including filmmaker Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, also spoke in his support.
The one-minute video has him on screen declaring that the country had been brainwashed and roads were named after “glorified dacoits” like Akbar, Humayun and Jehangir.
“Cringe. Bad poetry, unwatchable. Should drop the pen name too. Why profit off of something you so hate,” actor Richa Chadha said, referring to his pen name “muntashir”.
Cringe. Bad poetry, unwatchable. Should drop the pen name too. Why profit off of something you so hate.
— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) August 26, 2021
The 45-year-old from Madhya Pradesh dropped Shukla from his name to take on “muntashir”, which means ”scattered” or ”dispersed”, according to the Rekhta dictionary.
Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan criticised him for his poetry and said, “Bigotry laced with casteism!”
Fellow lyricist and screenwriter Mayur Puri added that writers shouldn’t act as enablers of hate with their work.
“Why seed hatred, Manojbhai? No country has a perfectly rosy history. Par writers ko aag lagaane ka nahin, aag bujhane ka kaam karna chahiye. (But writers should try to put out the fire, not spread it)
“Please don’t mind, but I’m a bit disappointed that you are doing this kind of work,” Puri wrote.
Why seed hatred, Manojbhai?
No country has a perfectly rosy history.
Par writers ko aag lagaane ka nahin, aag bujhane ka kaam karna chahiye.
Please don’t mind, but I’m a bit disappointed that you are doing this kind of work. https://t.co/NjdJJWrsNM
— Mayur Puri / मयूर पुरी (@mayurpuri) August 25, 2021
As the outrage spread, ‘Mughals’ started trending on Twitter with more than 20,000 tweets on the topic.
Husain Haidry, another lyricist writer, claimed this wasn’t the first time Muntashir was “spreading hate or lies” and it won’t be the last.
“Mask has been off since well over a year. This is not an out-of-the-blue video. Anyway, spewing anti-Muslim venom, instead of being punished, has now been incentivised by the government and the society…,” the Mukkabaaz lyricist wrote.
Lyricist-poet Puneet Sharma came up with a reply in the form of a Hindi poem, titled “Dakshin ke naa vaam ke, na Allah ke naa Ram ke, netaji ke naukar sab, bhookhe hain inaam ke.” (They don’t belong to either right or left, Allah or Ram, they are the servants of the leader, and seek rewards)
“Who taught this man history? What will he call the Maratha invasion of Bengal?” asked author Devdutt Pattanaik.
Adding his voice to the debate, historian S Irfan Habib said it was disappointing to see a writer like Muntashir “spitting venom” and using “dubious and imaginary arguments as history”.
Oh, boy… @manojmuntashir Manoj Muntashir has always been expressing his perspective fearlessly in his poetry and public discourse. If you are ignorant doesn’t mean he has changed suddenly.
Stupid liberals, please sit down.
— Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) August 26, 2021
One Twitter user wrote that “mediocre artists” were participating in anti-Muslim “hate-mongering” to further their career.
A section on Twitter came out in support of Muntashir and argued that the writer was merely reminding people of the “forgotten actual history” of the country and the Mughals.
Filmmaker Agnihotri tweeted, “Manoj Muntashir has always been expressing his perspective fearlessly in his poetry and public discourse. If you are ignorant doesn’t mean he has changed suddenly. ”
In his video, Muntashir also refers to the name of gods being removed from history textbooks and asks how people can call Mughal emperors “noble kings” when they had “massacred people” in the name of religion.
He said people should choose their heroes and villains without any caste bias.