By Vivek Surendran, Word for Peace
Aamir Khan exclaimed his wife made a “disastrous and big” statement asking whether they should consider moving out of India as there is a sense of growing insecurity. Khan, like any other citizen of this country has the freedom to express what he, his father, mother, brother or wife feels. If his wife feels insecure in this country, it is sad, and that is exactly what he said.
From Ramnad riots in 1957 to the latest Dadri mob lynching incident, India has seen a lot, but we have managed to coexist. I think the problem arises when we link the religion of a person to the statements he make. Aamir Khan, till yesterday, was one of the most brilliant actors India has ever seen, but after the statement that has made him trend for over 40 hours now, he’s just a Muslim, a Muslim who is considered anti-Hindu, anti-Modi, anti-BJP and sadly, anti-national, a Muslim who is considered the spokesperson of his community. Why?
The same happened when Shah Rukh Khan spoke about intolerance. From the Bollywood Badshah, being Muslim became his identity. He was even asked to go to Pakistan. What about all those writers from different religions who returned their awards in protest to the rising intolerance in the country? All those filmmakers and other government honoured personalities? They were labelled either arrogant or cowards, their religion didn’t matter. But when a Khan or a Shah speaks up, it does. If this is not intolerance, then what is?
The #AwardWapsi protest that began to raise voice against the murder of progressive Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi, and against the disputable appointments made or suggested a top class government-run institutes in the country, like the IITs, FTII and JNU, did garner a lot of attention, but in vain. Blindfolded PM of India did have the time to meet those who lead a march to vouch for tolerant India, but not a minute to tweet a condolence message to the family of the man who was lynched, not a minute to condemn the incident, and certainly not a minute to tell those returning the awards in protest he will look into the matter.
It is not just Kiran Rao who felt like leaving this country, I have too, multiple times but of course, not really meaning to do it. When I get in a traffic jam, when there is frequent load shedding, when I read about gruesome rape cases in the country, when I see journalists threatened for their opinion, when I see celebrities labelled anti-national for expressing what they feel, I do feel like leaving this country, but just like Kiran and Aamir, I won’t too. It is childish to question our patriotism because of this. You can, if you have never said or felt this, if you’ve always lived by Aamir’sRang De Basanti dialogue that goes: “Har desh perfect nahi hota, use perfect banana padta hai”.
I am a Hindu, and lately, I too feel there is a sense of insecurity rising in me. I am scared to put my thoughts, including this, out there in the open because I will be labelled anti-national too. There are people on social media, highly opinionated, waiting to rip people off in the name of trolling. There are political parties and religious groups in this country who will resort to murder if I make a statement against them. There are business tycoons who have the power to curb my words, and stop big media houses from publishing it. The government in power trespasses into my kitchen and asks me not to eat beaf. Hindutva groups show me statistics of number of Muslims increasing in this country and tell me it is a threat. I don’t see how it is a threat. I don’t see how Aamir Khan or my Muslim friends are threats. I don’t see how Hindus are threats to Muslims. If all of us are Indians first, friends second, and together in this journey to make this country the best, who can stop us?
Another argument I came across multiple times on social media is that Indians made Aamir who he is! Please, let’s not be vacuous. Aamir became who he is because he is good at what he does. It was not your, not mine, not anyone’s favour that his movies became a hit. Movies worked because people genuinely liked it. He became a star because people looked up to him. His success, and everything he got with it – wealth, social status, fan following – was earned by him. No one went to his house, pushed him to act, demanded him to put in hard work, and made him a star. Let us accept it and not be hypocrites.
However, I agree one fine day if millions of Indians, as one, feel he is anti-national and decide to boycott his movies, he will have a tough time. But it is unlikely, because deep down, we know what he meant, and how he said what he said. Because each citizen of India recounts all the facts before taking a decision about giving drastic reactions.
Now, AR Rahman has backed Aamir saying he faced a similar situation. But will be condemning this too? No, because we know what Rahman is talking about. He is talking about the fatwa issued against him by a Muslim group. So, we don’t have a problem with him? Is this not selective outrage? Let us see how many celebrities, the likes of Anupam Kher and Raveena Tandon, speak up against Rahman.
Instead of paying heed to those who polarise every statement made by celebrities, instead of listening to all those on social media, a majority hiding behind fake profiles, why cannot we use individual discretion to decide what is right and what is wrong?