Aamir Khan expressing his opinion on growing religious intolerance in India has created an unprecedented nationwide frenzy with supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP launching extraordinary attacks against the veteran actor. To me, the reaction on Aamir Khan’s statement has been disproportionate and way out of order, for the actor merely criticised the government and the functioning of the ruling dispensation and their followers.
Criticising the government can never amount to being anti-national same as criticising Narendra Modi can never be termed as being anti-India. Neither the BJP is a nation in itself nor Modi is India. The ruling BJP and the government must realise that Aamir Khan is one of the most sincere, literate and extraordinary artists. He’s never been an attention seeker because he’s beyond such gimmickry. His achievement in Indian film industry and fight for social cause through various initiatives will corroborate my assertion.
It’s, therefore, important to note that when Aamir makes such a statement, he truly means that, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to take him seriously. It’s also the job of the government of the day to take serious note of serious people, who are making serious statement.
The way Aamir is being hounded, condemned and given grief to by a bunch of utterly shallow people is extremely unfortunate and must be denounced unequivocally. The argument being used to criticise is that Aamir Khan wouldn’t be a superstar if India was an intolerant nation. The overzealous critics of the actor should take note that he is not blaming India. India was tolerant, is tolerant and is going to be one of the most tolerant nations in the world.
However, there’s no denying the truth that the current period is going through a serious crisis, when the people belonging to the ruling class are vitiating the atmosphere by their ludicrous statements and reprehensible actions. For example, a person is immediately asked to go to Pakistan if he simply opposes Modi. It’s utter nonsense. Likewise, a person gets lynched and killed merely because he’s rumoured to have eaten a particular type of meat. And if that wasn’t worse, the people in power or those related to the ruling party are always quick to justify these acts.
The anger expressed by various artists, writers, filmmakers, scientists and historians across the board is nothing but attempts to persuade the head of the nation to reign in the so-called fringe elements of his parivaar. Unfortunately, neither Modi is ready to understand nor the Sangh parivaar.
Yesterday, the way Aamir Khan was ridiculed, condemned and criticised by the members of Sangh Parivaar will only further destroy the culture of free speech in India. Modi and his supporters must know that this is not how democracy functions. Ideological tolerance is key to the success of democracy.
Some loony elements were seen burning the effigy of Aamir Khan on Tuesday. That’s precisely what intolerance is because gantantra mein aalochnaaon ko jalaya nahi jaata( criticism can never be responded with violent in democracy). In democracy, you don’t crush your critics because, not just the celebrity like Aamir Khan, the very nature of democracy allows even a common man to question the style of the functioning of the government of the day. It’s the responsibility of the government to take note of every criticism. But, when in disagreement, you ought to counter the critics’ arguments with your own but without losing civility.
I fear for India’s thousands of year old civilisation, which encouraged the embracing of people from all faiths, and ethnic backgrounds. I am worried about the very idea of India being in grave danger. Pluralism and sarva dharma sambhav have been the bedrock of India’s cultural ethos. But the way government is content in playing the role of a simple onlooker while people like Aamir Khan are attacked, it will no doubt destroy the whole civilisational tradition of India.
The author is a senior Congress leader and a former Member of Parliament. Views expressed here are author’s own.
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