With drone strikes failing to stem the rise of religious extremism and bristling anti-Americanism in the tribal badlands of the Af-Pak region, Washington has now adopted a new soft-touch strategy to counter the menace: inducing local youth to substitute religious fanaticism for another form of fanaticism- that of excessive, irrational adulation of Tamil superstar, Rajnikanth.
In pursuit of the new strategy, NATO drones have been regularly dropping DVDs of Rajnikanth movies with subtitles in Pushto and Urdu (although that is probably not required) over high value targets in Pakistan’s FATA, in the hope of quickly converting the Taliban militia into Rajni fans and thereby sapping their zeal for waging jihad.
The new strategy has the imprimatur of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who feels it now holds the key to stabilizing the Af-Pak region and ushering in durable peace. “We got researchers from Harvard’s Sociology Department to do an in-depth study of Rajnikanth induced extremism, which is currently endemic to parts of Southern India. They concluded that it is one of the few benign forms of radicalism that does not pose a threat to the global community: Rajni fans occasionally blow themselves up to express devotion for their hero, are intolerant of alternate disparaging points of view regarding their idol, and while away their time watching Rajni movies and making them bigger hits then they ought to be. We are cool and can live with that,” explained Hillary Clinton.
The new approach already seems to be working: Since January, over a 1000 DVDs of Rajini blockbusters such as Muthu, Padayappa, Baasha, and Robot have been dropped over select targets in North and South Waziristan. Consequently, over 500 Rajini fans clubs have mushroomed in these parts and approximately 12,000 individuals, who had previously described themselves as rabid militants, now count themselves as diehard Rajini fanatics. “At this rate, this region should be militancy free by the end of 2012 and transform into a giant Rajni fan zone,” opined NATO commander, General John Allen.
Rajniism is slowly but surely blending with local tribal customs and ingrained religious bigotry to spawn new cultural norms: Taliban zealots now encourage men to grow beards in the fashion sported by Rajnikanth in yesteryear hit Baasha, all forms of music and entertainment are strictly proscribed unless they happen to be from movies starring him, and giant sized carboard cut-outs of the star dot the landscape.
Even veteran Taliban commanders are now too busy managing Rajni fan clubs to spare time for fighting NATO forces. “Although evicting the invaders remains my top priority, being president of the district Rajni fan club has my hands full,” says Mullah Rocketti, a Taliban commander from S. Waziristan. “I just finished watching Muthu for the 10th time. Now I have to go inaugurate a new fan club near the Khyber Pass and then dispatch a suicide bomber to Chennai to blow himself up in front of Thalaivar’s (leader in Tamil, term by which Rajni fans refer to their idol) house on his birthday. Oh, and then there is saaar’s upcoming movie Raana that I am dying to watch. Inshallah, it will be the biggest hit of his career (sic),” he added.
The cult of Rajni-fandom could unwittingly become India’s next big non-material export to Afghanistan after Buddhism.