Bollywood’s Kareena Kapoor subject to online abuse over baby’s name

<span>Photograph: Sujit Jaiswal/AFP/Getty</span>
Photograph: Sujit Jaiswal/AFP/Getty

Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor has received abuse online from extremists over her new baby’s name.

Kapoor has been attacked on social media for calling her second son Jehangir, the imperial name of the 17th-century Mughal emperor, which means “conqueror of the world”. Kapoor, a Hindu, and her husband, Saif Ali Khan, a Muslim and also a Bollywood star, have faced abuse for their marriage.

Jehangir, the fourth Mughal emperor, ordered the torture and execution in 1606 of Sikh guru Arjan Dev, who opposed his rule. Many Hindus in India consider Sikhs to be part of a wider Hindu family.

The couple’s first child, now four, was named Taimur, the name of a 14th-century Turkic conqueror who violently sacked Delhi in 1398.

When that name became public, the abuse began on social media. The couple were accused of naming their son after a “mass murderer”, a “monster”, a “genocidal maniac”. Some commenters compared the choice to naming a baby Hitler.

Kapoor said she has been scarred by the online abuse and Khan has said he wondered for a while if he should change Taimur’s name.

When the couple announced the birth of their second son, Jeh, in February, a few commenters online wondered if this was short for Jehangir.

After the recent publication of Kapoor’s book, Pregnancy Bible, was found to have a photo of Jeh, with the caption “Jehangir Ali Khan”, the online abuse escalated.

Kareena Kapoor surrounded by crowd
Kareena Kapoor in a scene during filming of the Bollywood production Kambakht Ishq in Venice 2008. Photograph: Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

One commenter tweeted: “First kid – Taimur (who killed millions of Hindus) Second kid – Jehangir (who killed Guru Arjan Dev) What will be the name of next one?”

Another tweet read: “After Taimur, the guy who killed 5% of human population on earth, Jehangir, the Mughal who was an opium addict and debauch tyrant makes a good follow-up. Going for Aurangzeb would have made even more sense.”

The attacks have highlighted how, in India, for some, history is political and personal. Figures from the past and their actions are often seen in the context of current political and religious disputes.

Among supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and Hindu extremist groups, there has been a desire to expunge the Mughals rule from history.

This attitude prompted BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, to rename Muslim towns in the state and replace them with Hindu names.

Faizabad district has become Ayodhya. Mughalsarai junction railway station was changed to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. Allahabad city was renamed Prayagraj.

Bollywood’s secular culture has allowed both Hindus and Muslims to thrive. Inter-faith marriages have become common. The reigning star triumvirate – Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan – are Muslims, and two of them have married Hindu women.

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These inter-faith marriages have angered Hindu extremists. Kapoor, for example, was attacked online for marrying Khan. The BJP’s “love jihad” campaign was aimed at preventing inter-religious marriages on the unfounded grounds that Muslim men coerce innocent Hindu women into converting to Islam.

Kareena Kapoor at a Unicef launch
Kareena Kapoor at a Unicef launch of a move to make Indian schools more child-friendly, safe and secure for children in 2014. Photograph: Pacific Press Media Production Corp./Alamy

Some have come to Kapoor’s defence online. One commenter questioned why people are still scared of a Mughal emperor who died 400 years ago.

Khan’s sister, Saba, posted her support on Instagram: “What’s in a name? Love … live and let it be. Children are God’s blessings.”

Social commentator Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr said extremists with a hatred of Muslims seek out things to be offended by.

He said: “At the root of it all is one thing – anger and resentment at Kapoor, a Hindu woman, marrying a Muslim. If Saif Ali Khan had been married to a Muslim and he had chosen these names, they probably wouldn’t have been bothered. But they get hot under the collar over a Hindu girl married to a Muslim who, moreover, chooses Muslim names for her children.”