The ‘I’ word

This whole business of Aamir, an actor, and a citizen as IMPORTANT as you or me – irrespective of the class he enjoys – saying something and the way people are reacting has truly reached a circus-stage where you have carnival-barkers standing in front of every freak-show with their own costumes and placards. It is as if people have nothing ‘constructive’ to talk or write about and are using this episode to vent their frustrations: some genuine, most knee-jerk.

Aamir Khan 2Firstly, WHY give Aamir Khan so much importance? Yes he is an artist & more importantly, a superstar. He ‘feels.’ So do we. Unfortunately, we do not mint crores for ‘feeling.’ Hell, we do not even properly get paid for working without feeling or anybody caring for our feelings! Aamir Khan has a RESEARCH TEAM for Satyamev Jayate. He provides only artistic inputs and NOT qualitative or scientific inputs. There is a REASON for that. He believes – and rightly so — that he has neither the scientific nor a social sciences’ major’s acumen to compile quantitative, and equally, qualitative thesis for a social experiment.

Intolerance has become such a mis-used word that I guess even the Oxford dictionary head-honcho is chewing his/her nails whether he/she really got the meaning correct vis-à-vis this Indian controversy. What is this ‘intolerance’ and what is so special about the supposed intolerance that has crept into the Indian [read Hindu] society since the anointment of Modi as the PM? Has there been ANY significant statistical difference between the comments written against a thought-piece or an analysis or an op-ed BEFORE and AFTER BJP coming to power in the free-for-all world of internet? Can anybody please go and visit REDIFF comments sections beneath ANY sensitive [even insignificant] article that has a time-stamp BEFORE and AFTER Modi’s election and provide a meaningful interference? I will be curious to know if anyone provides me a theory that there IS a difference. Were Twitter and Facebook havens of culture and manners? Internet-vandalism has always been a malady where ANY loser or winner in life [as defined by society of-course] can say anything and get away with it unless cyber-laws are clawed enough to stab the perpetrator. Hell, this world of internet even provides a free on-line sex-change operation without any stigma attached! It is not for an empty reason that Yahoo chat shut down!

For all the ‘liberals’ of India, this conflation of internet-vandalism with intolerance has left them stranded. So they are quite happy to have a marriage between these two when it suits their interests, and a divorce WITHOUT any alimony when it damages their interests. [You see, there is no pre-nup at all! It’s troubling for Nidhi Razdan when her ilk are called presstitutes but it quite acceptable when the Indians living and earning in the USA are called ‘Internet Hindus’ by the great Guha.]

What is the liberals’ definition of intolerance? What was the stuff that happened to Tasleema in Hyderabad? Was this BEFORE or AFTER Modi’s election? When did Rushdie’s book get banned in India? What about Shah Bano? What about the Jayendra Saraswati case? When was the Kerala Professor’s hands chopped off?  What was the level of ‘intolerance’ then? Was this word ever used? If yes, why, and how? And if not, why not? And no, I am talking of childish finger-wagging of you-did-this-in-1984 and so this happened later. We do need to move beyond that. But why has this INTOLERANCE word become THE word now?

Though being a big fan of Aamir, I have always been skeptical of Aamir’s intelligence – not conscience – with matters NOT relating to film-dom [remember the squatting for NBA?]. For Aamir, to get carried away to talk at a conference about his wife’s ill-founded fears of their child being bullied/pre-judiced under-lined on religion points to two things: (i) He honestly thought a bed-room or kitchen or bath-room conversation-with-fantastic-mirrors-above-and-sideways in his humble abode is something he could ‘legitimize’ at a conference – a press-conference of journalism no less! And that it would be construed in a vein as light as Salman Khan’s sermon to SRK’s mentor/benefactor Armaan Kohli on BIG BOSS (ii) He TRULY thought there was an all-pervading climate of intolerance [man this word] hovering over the Indian skies where the folks that identified themselves with the majority community were going berserk thinking that their Don Corleone – Modi – was at the center of affairs and would mete out ‘justice’ as he did in the opening scene of ‘The Godfather.’

Can we please, for a minute with regard to Aamir, talk of logic? He is the same actor who rejected SAAJAN since he just couldn’t believe that a woman could fall in love with a man’s ‘nazams’ without ever having seen him or met him. So for him, logic is important [the same logic that made him sign MELA and Dhoom 3]. So logically, what happened within the 1 or 2 weeks that this Rubik-cube solver gave an interview to the dense Mr. Shekhar Gupta—who of course has the fantastic intelligence of saying that the difference between one Manmohan Desai’s film to the next is that the previous film had Amitabh beating 30 men while the next had 40—where he did not express shock at the ‘disastrous’ situation for minorities in the country  & the day of the Goenka awards that created an unfathomable paranoia in Kiran Rao about her kid’s security in India? I would really like to know what fear the child faced in Modi’s regime that would render him as vulnerable as that Muslim child in Behrampada or the victims of Khap Panchayat or the victims of acid-hurlers. Because seriously, if Aamir and SRK feel insecure in India, then the average Muslim in India should really have no other option but join the Syrians’ refugee line.

After this, the immediate argument of the ‘liberals’ is: Why should one reach the level of ISIS to be considered ‘intolerant’? Why should one wait till Modi speaks the language of Donald Trump or starts allotting concentration camps? Isn’t it enough that the Hindu Mahasabha or the Thackerays call the trio ‘snakes’? For all those folks posting links of the Shiv Sena and Hindu Mahasabha and any of their KKK off-shoots, I guess, one never realized that before this imbroglio, the Thackerays or the Hindu Mahasabha members were actually the epitome of gentleness and civility. And before Modi got elected, they thought 10 times before branding someone, but now they brand at least 10 minorities every day! And of course, the majority of Hindus do identify with them right? They do support the vandals who stripped down to their underwear in front of Dilip Kumar’s house for accepting ‘Nishan-e-Imtiaz’ from Pakistan government. Could there be any possible bigger insult than this to the majority community? So the point is, one doesn’t have to wait for ISIS-level beheadings to raise hue and cry, yes, but one also has to have a sense of balance and proportion of Indian reality vis-à-vis global realities.

In the 2009 elections when the BJP was lost in the wilderness and decided to use the RAM TEMPLE as one of its weapons, it back-fired big-way because the Indian folks were NOT at all interested in regressive antics. They chose an incompetent PM over a party that decided to play a religious card in desperation. [And of course Bihar’s results this year are there for everyone to see].This is the Indian public. I hope Aamir can trust in that at least – if not the regime at the center currently.

Aamir’s critics find him pre-meditated and rehearsed. How I wish, in this case, he really rehearsed instead of throwing around a number of 6-8 months. It appears as though he just didn’t want to be left behind in the award-wapsi party and had to contribute a bit. And then he comes back with a response saying that he will never leave India and ends it with a poem from Tagore. You cannot just get abstract now and try to cover up. One is not questioning Aamir’s or his wife’s decision to leave India. That’s their prerogative. Their lives. But to underline the reason behind that as insecurity for belonging to the minorities is a very strong thought-process. After all, this was the reason Pakistan was founded! The league and Jinnah convinced themselves and others that a Muslim could NEVER be safe in a Hindu-majority country. Is that really the case now? Is that what is being implied?

The real tragedy in all of this is that Kiran Rao, Aamir, SRK, Salman, Kashyap, Bachchan have nothing to fear: They have the biggest weapon that anybody in India craves for – privilege of class and wealth. They are living the American dream in India. It is only us, irrespective of belonging to left, right, or center that has to bear the brunt of mobocracy.

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