Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Amir Khan and Intolerant India

Amir Khan is learning what many common citizens of India who happen to be minorities know for a fact, that they've to bare their souls, every day, to show loyalty to Mother India lest they be called traitors. When India plays against Pakistan in a cricket match the Muslim neighborhoods of Mumbai have to fly the Indian tri-color outside their homes but the Hindu homes need not do so because their patriotism is axiomatic.

Amir Khan is also learning the perils of speaking carelessly in a social media age when few take care to know what he really said but eagerly join a lynch mob baying for his blood based on what they read in Facebook and twitter, both of which are now the most convenient avenues to show one's love for India, preferably sitting at a client's place in US or UK.

My first surprise was that a mediocre and inarticulate actor was invited to address a ceremony for a journalism award instituted in the name of a fire brand publisher who, at great personal cost, stood up to the corrupt and venal regimes of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. I wish people had objected more to that as an insult to the many brave journalists of a storied newspaper. Amir Khan had not even distinguished himself through any topical movie on a related subject to be invited to such a gathering. For instance I'd rather tolerate Robert Redford, star of 'All the president's men', at such a gathering.

Only in a movie crazed country like India would Amir Khan not only be invited at a function to honor journalists but the country would work itself into a neurotic frenzy over innocuous remarks and actually ignore the more offending parts of trying to make a Muslim actor, because of his religion, take a stand against every mistake that some crazed jihadi has done across the globe.

To anyone watching the video it is apparent that Amir Khan was rambling off in response to a question on what he feels about the current rash of protests by artists and intellectuals. Also the interviewer quite literally egged on him to answer whether he specifically agrees on the protests. Amir does start out by hedging his reply that there are better qualified people in the audience to answer. Then he goes on to say that "as a society to feel "secure, two, three things are very important". First, "a sense of justice" where the common man feels that justice is being meted out. Second, when somebody takes the law into their own hands the common man derives a sense of security seeing elected representatives "take a strong stance". "When we see that happening there is a sense of security and when we don't see it there's a sense of insecurity. No matter who the ruling party is. It has happened across the ages" (what he's referring here is the insecurity due to the silence of the elected representatives). Then, as an after thought, he recounts a personal conversation that his wife had had with him when she expressed fear for the safety of her children and if they should move out of India. Amir Khan added "it was a disastrous statement for her make it to me". Nowhere does HE say he wants to get out of India. He only shared a sentiment, a momentary one at that, that his wife expressed. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with any of that.

Amir Khan Interview Video from You Tube (

During my last visit to India the father of a girl expressed mortal fear for his daughter when she travels to Delhi. The girl, her father recounted, would first look for an authorized cab sent by her firm, if the driver has the credentials, get into the cab, call her parents, chit chat with them, all the while telling them subtly the roads being traveled etc hinting to the driver that there is somebody else on the other end keeping a tab on her. This my dear readers is in the capital city of India. Mera Bharat Mahaan. Out of my great regard for the dad I did not ask "why bother? She's a highly accomplished individual who'd be embraced by America".

When a law college student was beaten within an inch of his life by his classmates even as cops were standing a few feet away a relative wrote to me saying "I never want to go back to India". I remember driving my scooter on a road that was a silly excuse for a road and muttering to myself "whither deliverance". I bet that the many thousands of Chennaiites who were stranded for hours in rains would more than gladly emigrate if only the US consulate in Chennai had an open door policy. As I was typing this I saw a friend post a satirical (actually an attempt at satire) by IIT Mumbai students, of course patriotic, ripping into Amir Khan. I applaud them and I hereby appeal to the home ministry to confiscate their passports and prohibit the IIT grads from emigrating.

Muslims and Christians are probably a distinct minority of those who emigrate to the West and settle down in the West. It is then rich hypocrisy for others to lecture members of  those communities of showing a willingness to emigrate elsewhere. A persistent canard is that members of the minority communities have other homelands and only the hapless Hindus are left with just one homeland. Technically speaking it was Amir Khan's Hindu wife who expressed a willingness to exile herself.

To me the most offensive part was the interviewer linking terrorism to Islam, not just the extremist section but all of Islam without a qualifier or caveat, and asking Amir Khan to comment. I don't remember the last time a Hindu actor was asked about the demolition of Babri Masjid or the Mumbai Riots. Not satisfied with Amir Khan emphatically suggesting that terrorists have no religion the interview then innocently asks if Amir Khan would lend his strong voice as a moderate muslim. At this point Amir should've slapped him.

Najma Heptullah a fawning courtier who changed parties in pursuit of office then attempts to play the 'model muslim', the kind that the BJP-wallahs would love and hug, by asking, what she herself admits is a 'politically incorrect question'. Heptullah asks Amir Khan whether he is worried about Wahhabism infiltrating the Indian Muslim population and she helpfully warns him that he'd be chopped off in an ISIS administration. This is beyond the pale. Indecent and grotesque. Bollywood used to cower before Bal Thackeray who showed that Wahhabism can exist in any religion.

Many Facebook posts I saw indignantly informed Amir Khan that his riches are due to the many Hindus buying tickets for his movies and how in any other country, usually the implied reference is to Pakistan or a Middle Eastern country, he'd not have become what he is today. This is plain bollocks. Patriotism, as Johnson taught us, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Amir Khan is what he is today by virtue of his talent and hard work. Yes, India provided a climate where he could flourish but that is the duty of any decent country towards its citizens. India did not give Amir Khan anything on a platter. If India made Amir Khan rich then I wish it extended such gratis to every hapless poor soul living below poverty line in India. Nobody bought tickets to his blockbusters out of a generosity of soul to ensure that poor Amir Khan lives in a bungalow.

Hollywood is often accused of being anti-American but I've never seen a clamor for any actor to exile himself or herself. Even as George Bush was ratcheting up the war rhetoric against Iraq actor Sean Penn went to Iraq and announced that he was against the war. Accepting an Oscar director Michael Moore decried the 'fictitious war' from the stage. Hollywood actors, mostly dyed in the wool liberals, have often mouthed nonsense when it comes to politics and America laughs it off. India needs to take a chill pill.

The real tragedy of India that one of its largest metropolises, Chennai, is reeling under an onslaught of torrential rains and the entire nation appears to be riveted on an innocuous remark by a mediocre actor. Between corrupt governments and greedy consumers the city of Chennai has seen rapacious development with little thought of exigencies like the current one. Literally life is in a standstill in Chennai for nearly 10 days. I'm sure that most of North India does not even know that Chennai is submerged in water and is now practically Venice without the beauty of Venice.

The lynch mob crying against Amir Khan has only proved him correct. There indeed is a climate of intolerance in India.


kailash said...

Problem is many in our society reads or listens to article/interviews like reading for exams to score marks , always they read between lines and jump across . In fact many are proving Aamirs statements by abusing him , it would have gone meaningless if they have ignored it.

Dr.Rengan said...

South India ,North East are not of any concern for our national media.
Hypocrisy to the core.

V said...

I have been reading some of your posts. I am not sure if you have hidden agenda sponsored by an anti-india opinion machinery or just incapable of sound reasoning.
Why have you alluded to the Delhi Rape case here which is irrelevant to the so-called intolerance and current Aamir Khan episode?
The reasoning you give are ludicrous!! I have been in different countries. Back when I was in Texas, my co worker would ask me to join her for runs after 6 pm for safety reason. This is a Texas born and raised white american girl. My ex girlfriend who used to work late hours in Sydney employed a similar strategy while going home by cab. That was a girl raised in Australia.

Why have you brought in the Chennai rain episode trying to drive a wedge between Tamil Nadu and rest of the country? Chennai rainfall and damage is no different to what happened in Mumbai in June this year or to the damage caused in New York floods in 2014. Chennai is doing just fine.

I know you even before you were starting to get a negative publicity in Jeyamohan circles. I still believe you are just a naive NRI with prejudiced reasoning. I would even pray to Jesus that you are not one of the stooges of anti-india christian lobby opinion mercenary that you are widely believed to be. At least your mischievous writings point me that way.

மயிலாடுதுறை சிவா said...

Superb Brother...

GK said...

I am so disappointed with JeMo for considering your post worth mentioning in his blog!!!
You call America is super safe and extremely tolerant than any other country in the world? Don't you think that is an overstatement?
I am really curious to know what part of America you live in and wonder if you have habit of watching local news.
Please don't tell you have never heard of gun culture, mugging incidents and house burglaries targeted towards Indian homes. You are trying to paint a very wrong picture of USA and India to anyone who might read you blog. Yes, India has lots of flaws and so frustrating but so do US in several ways.

Anonymous said...

I know generally the converted people are more religious (externally of course), than someone who is born into that religion. I think as a converted, you have to to attack/hate your born-in religion more to show your affinity of your new believe.

So I look this article as your showing of your affinity, not being objective. In that way, you are doing an excellent job, keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

I (a Hindu) used to attend a catholic school.. we had a sister called "yesuve madhave sister".. every time we see her walking in the school grounds, we used to run to her and say a little prayer that starts with "yesuve madhave.." and ends with "mariye vaazhga..".. she will put a little cross on our forehead and a little happiness will blossom in us..
The same sister will come into the class and make fun of "mariyamma and kaliamma" celebrations..
My two elder sisters will talk about this at home in a complaining way and my father and my mother would have an amusing smile for like 2 seconds and will become disinterested in the if to say.. "why are you making such a big deal out of this...". so much for the intolerance in India...
I know I am quoting a personal experience of mine .. however, this is the general psyche of most hindus..

Now, the american company that I am working for wanted to bring in a consultant from offshore.. we had two in mind who were eligible (one christian and one hindu)..later I learnt that the "christian" consultant claimed that he being christian and all that, deserved to be in America more than the hindu one..learnt something about the indian-christian psyche that day..

Being an atheist I laugh all of this off..

Good point about the chennai rains.. unfortunately the NRI's who have already made a comfortable living, who can take some risks in life, are all busy writing detailed articles and comments to the articles.. what shall we do ?

Unknown said...

You are being stupid when you bring in safety of someone riding a taxi and Chennai rains in this discussion. How are these related to the so-called intolerance in India?
Aamir was not talking about law and order when he said his wife wanted to move out of India.

Renga said...

If somebody flourish in west, credit goes to the society openness. If Amirkhan flourish in Bollywood, it is due to his hard work.
I do not get the logic

jkrk said...

Hello. I have read plenty of your blog posts and I think you are a brilliant writer. You are a very sharp critic and I support your notion that critics probably perform greater service to this country than plain jingoists.

That said, I think you fell prey to Indian Mainstream Media and their shenanigans. Let me just say that there is NO climate of intolerance that has suddenly cropped up in the last year. That is plain hogwash. The media has you believe that there is some level of distrust that has been cultivated by the present Govt. and that minorities are in danger yada yada yada. There is no such thing. India has ALWAYS been like that. I thought you of all people knew that. You, who in response to thousands attending Yakub Memon's funeral brought up Bal Thackeray as an example.

Some level of intolerance is built into the Indian Psyche and eradicating that is only possible through a good education,and that will take generations. Coming to Aamir Khan and his comment, he should be allowed to express his opinions and people are allowed to disagree/agree. No problems there. And YES, a lot of disagreements are not very civil, but what do you expect in a country like India and from social media which is known for trolling and bullying.

But a lot of people who are moderate/not-extremists have also come out against his comments because it is hypocritical. The points he brought up "Sense of Injustice" etc etc can apply to any Govt. that India has had in the past. He mentions that too ("no matter what the ruling party is") but that was to make sure that his comment is not perceived as targeting the present Govt. which he certainly was doing. He has every right to criticize the Govt but frankly, saying this now after the academia/authors staged their "Award Wapsi" drama is just plain hypocrisy.

You could have actually titled this post "Aamir Khan and the perils of Selective criticism". And selective criticism this definitely is. These self-appointed intellects capitalize on the pedestrian nature of public discourse and media debates in India. I would have supported his comments had he voiced out his support for Sanal Edamaruku or Taslima Nasreen or most recently A.R Rahman who was hounded by a Fatwa for some trivial reason.
I am looking forward to the day when the debates in India are like the ones I see on Truereddit/ChangeMyView. While they may be slightly biased, the level of discussion is something that I cannot expect here in India.

What gets our goat is that these Intellectuals ( I wonder if they really are but I am not really qualified to judge) only come out in protest when it suits them. Case in point: Nayantara Sahgal. It may not be entirely clear what AK has to gain from this but I remain skeptical. This is a guy who capitalized on public emotion through that talkshow Satyameva Jayate and made money (Remains to be seen if that show had a net positive--I doubt it), someone who has built up a "I am holier than thou" image very carefully and is a supposedly "socially conscious filmmaker". A very clever business move and I congratulate him for that. I think in this case, skepticism is warranted.

tl;dr::Plenty of moderates out there not in support of Aamir and are tired of this selective outrage/criticism but who fully support his right to voice out opinion. We do not have strength in numbers so our voices are not heard above the shrill screech of Barkha Dutt and their ilk.

PS: I really like reading your posts. I know that you have a job and other commitments but please try being more regular. I pop in every day and am disappointed when I see the headline has not changed.
Good Day.

kuttygnanam said...

"Amir Khan is learning what many common citizens of India who happen to be minorities know for a fact, that they've to bare their souls, every day, to show loyalty to Mother India lest they be called traitors."


"When India plays against Pakistan in a cricket match the Muslim neighborhoods of Mumbai have to fly the Indian tri-color outside their homes but the Hindu homes need not do so because their patriotism is axiomatic".


Anonymous said...

No one likes to admit the truth if it reflects negatively on them. Especially people in developing countries. Peronism, demagogy, egoism, jingoism. Case in point: you'll get BS posts accusing you of having an anti-Hindu or anti-Indian agenda. The same people who claim to be super spiritual, humble and tolerant can't accept criticism and accuse you of hate if you dare to speak the truth. If you dare to criticise them you must absolutely criticise everyone else too or they feel slighted.