Indian court wants to arrest Richard Gere

Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty’s kiss—on the cheek—from Richard Gere at an AIDS awareness event in India more than a week ago has reached truly farcical proportions in India. As if burning effigies of Shetty and Gere by both fundamentalist Hindus and Muslims wasn’t ludicrous enough, the BBC reported today that an Indian court has issued ...

602284_070426_gere_05.jpg
602284_070426_gere_05.jpg

Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty's kiss—on the cheek—from Richard Gere at an AIDS awareness event in India more than a week ago has reached truly farcical proportions in India. As if burning effigies of Shetty and Gere by both fundamentalist Hindus and Muslims wasn't ludicrous enough, the BBC reported today that an Indian court has issued an arrest warrant for Richard Gere based on a complaint by a local resident.

It seems as if every Tariq, Deepak and Harish with an axe to grind has come out with a complaint about the incident. One conservative female activist delivered this nonsensical rant:

An Indian woman's greatest asset is her modesty, her reputation and dignity. Shilpa's lack of any protest only confirms that we are still slaves of the 'white'. We will tolerate all humiliation just because we feel the 'white' is our master."

Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty’s kiss—on the cheek—from Richard Gere at an AIDS awareness event in India more than a week ago has reached truly farcical proportions in India. As if burning effigies of Shetty and Gere by both fundamentalist Hindus and Muslims wasn’t ludicrous enough, the BBC reported today that an Indian court has issued an arrest warrant for Richard Gere based on a complaint by a local resident.

It seems as if every Tariq, Deepak and Harish with an axe to grind has come out with a complaint about the incident. One conservative female activist delivered this nonsensical rant:

An Indian woman’s greatest asset is her modesty, her reputation and dignity. Shilpa’s lack of any protest only confirms that we are still slaves of the ‘white’. We will tolerate all humiliation just because we feel the ‘white’ is our master.”

And others complained the public display was an “intolerable and obscene act. It is against the values, culture and traditions of the nation.” Shetty, for her part, has said that many Indians had overreacted, but still went on to say that “This is his culture, not ours. I understand this.”

I’d argue that this ridiculous episode reveals some of the deep contradictions and struggles in Indian society at present. Indians seem to be embracing modernity and Western influences on the one hand, while trying to hold on to the image of a conservative, “modest” Indian society, particularly in terms of women’s sexuality, on the other. Gere just seems to have been targeted as a scapegoat for those uncomfortable with the dramatic social changes in India that have already taken hold. Because for anyone who’s seen any recent Bollywood blockbuster (the immensely popular Dhoom movies come to mind), Gere’s kiss should barely register on the “immodesty” radar.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.