Courting Controversy

Why the latest episode of Priyanka Chopra-starrer ‘Quantico’ has enraged Indian fans

The fifth episode of Season 3, which was aired on June 1, shows a Hindu terrorist.

(Caution: spoilers ahead about the Quantico episode).

It’s been a rough month for Priyanka Chopra’s Quantico. In May, the ABC network cancelled the American drama series in the light of steadily dwindling ratings. Now, the latest episode of show’s the third and last season has angered Indians for a plot twist involving a Hindu terrorist.

In “The Blood of Romeo”, which was aired on June 1, Chopra’s Alex Parrish and her team at the Federal Bureau of Investigation learn that a nuclear physics professor at the Hudson University has stolen Uranium 235 from the institute’s premises, which can only mean one thing – a nuclear explosion is being planned in Manhattan.

As this happens days before a scheduled India-Pakistan peace summit over the Kashmir issue in New York, the needle of suspicion immediately points to Pakistan.

Soon, FBI learns that Elizabeth Nutting had stolen the uranium under duress – her family has been abducted by a group of men and will be killed if she doesn’t help them make the bomb. CCTV footage directs them to Adnan Hamaja, a Pakistani student at Nutting’s university. As the agency continues to investigate the Pakistani terror angle, Parrish finds a rudraksh chain on the neck of one of the terrorists. This leads her to conclude that it was all a plan by Indian nationalists to frame Pakistan in a nuclear attack, thereby scuttling the talks and winning the United States of America over to their side for good.

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On Twitter, several Indians expressed outrage at the insinuation that an Indian could be a terrorist. In particular, they took umbrage at the fact that Chopra, whose international stardom has made her a quasi-ambassador for India for her fans at home, could seemingly malign her own country.

The episode is also littered with references to and jokes about India-Pakistan rivalry. Before the Hindu terror plot is unveiled, an Indian FBI agent named Deep is more than happy at the chance to “take down the Pakistanis”, for some of his relatives had been killed by residents of that country. While spying on the terrorists holed up in an apartment with the nuclear arsenal, the investigators overhear them ordering Indian food – chicken tikka masala and naan, obviously – to which one of them quips to the Indian-origin Parrish, “I guess they don’t hate everything about you guys.”

Adnan, it turns out, is an Indian, who holds a grudge against Pakistan because his father died at the hands of Pakistani terrorists. The plan to bomb New York is made with the involvement of a top Indian official in the summit, who decided to take the law into his hands because his country “no longer has the courage to take real action against its enemies”.

The complicated relationship between India and Pakistan is a sore topic for both countries, and international commentary on it can be particularly prickly for some. Islamic terrorists have been a staple in American crime series, especially after the September 11, 2001, attacks. So when an episode that seems to be going along predictable lines throws up such a plot twist, it comes as a surprise, especially at a time when the Indian government has been trying to disprove the existence of Hindu extremist groups.

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