Aamir Khan’s right to speak

In the Bharatiya Janata Party Parivar’s revised reckoner, actor >Aamir Khan is now a villain giving India a bad name. It happened >the day he joined forces with writers, actors and scientists and re-opened the debate on intolerance in the country by voicing his own concern and his wife’s anxiety and thoughts, perhaps fleeting, of relocating elsewhere. It was not long before that the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre had made him the brand ambassador of >Swachh Bharat while continuing with him as the face of Incredible India. The underlying subtext to the criticism being heaped on Khan is that while the Narendra Modi government has been gracious to the actor, known for his contrarian positions taken in the past, Khan has been churlish, ungrateful and unmindful of the gestures made to him. The criticism of Khan, therefore, falls into an all-too-predictable pattern. If the writers who returned their awards were lampooned by fellow-writers for being unpatriotic, anti-national and motivated, Khan has been at the receiving end of his fellow-actors, some of whom have been vocal supporters of the current political leadership. In the clamour, Khan’s concerns are typically given short shrift, particularly his comment that it is important to have a sense of security and justice, essential underpinnings of any democratic society. It is the perceived lack of both that prompted writers/scientists/artists and filmmakers to question the government and return their national awards in protest. Like them, Khan too has underlined the importance of both for the political leadership — in particular, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by reminding him that he is the elected leader of the people of the country and must connect with their concerns.

In many ways, the Prime Minister’s silence continues to cause anxiety among civil society members, particularly in the minority community. Mr. Modi’s comments on the minority community during the Bihar campaign, without directly referring to them, have led to significant disquiet. The political leadership in the Central government and in the BJP remains resistant to addressing these anxieties by taking questions, reinforcing apprehensions. There is also something deeply disturbing in the suggestion of the BJP’s ally, the Shiv Sena, that >Aamir Khan be sent to Pakistan , for Khan is a Muslim, and the coding in the formulation is not intended to be subtle. Bollywood, of which Khan is an integral part, has never traded on religious identities. The actor has been forced to clarify that >neither he nor his wife has any intention of leaving India . Forcing citizens to abjectly clarify their patriotism is not the sign of a liberal democracy. Every Indian must have the right to critique her country. When fellow-citizens receive the critique as a sign of betrayal, it is a sign of illiberalism. When those fellow-Indians happen to be connected to power, directly or politically, democracy is truly in trouble.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 11:13:37 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/Aamir-Khan-remarks-Actors-right-to-speak/article59784500.ece