By Sandip Roy
Dear Aamir Khan,
It’s wonderful that you did not hold your tongue in front of cabinet ministers of the ruling party. It’s wonderful that they sat there and heard what you had to say face-to-face and not via a television screen or a newspaper headline. In a country where celebrities rarely want to rock the boat, it’s wonderful you spoke out and you spoke truth (or at least the truth as you saw it) to power. That is excellence in journalism.
But did you really have to say “When I sit at home and talk to Kiran, she says ‘Should we move out of India?’” In an India where every criticism of the government, every act of dissent, is met with the same hackneyed rebuttal #GoToPakistan did you really have to open the door to the Giriraj Singhs of the ruling party?
As a Muslim man, even if you claim to “represent everyone”, you do realize that even in the First World, Muslims are hardly the most welcome? In 31 states and counting in the US, refugees from Syria are no longer welcome. CAGE, an advocacy group, has warned that British Muslims are being subjected to “cradle-to-grave” levels of surveillance that go beyond America’s McCarthy witch-hunts during the Cold War. One assumes if you are interested in freedom of expression and tolerance you are not inclined to pack your bags for Saudi Arabia. How many countries are there where you would not be “scared to open the newspapers everyday”?
On the other hand, who are we kidding? Both you and I know, that Aamir Khan and his family can live pretty much anywhere they choose. You are global citizens. We both know that while the Twitter trolls will snarl about “love jihad”, no mob is going to burst into your kitchen to see what kind of meat you have in your refrigerator. It is one thing to stand up to protest intolerance, it is another thing to try and claim a piece of that victimhood. If Kiran Rao fears for the safety of her child, then which child is safe in India? To sit around the breakfast table and wonder about whether you should move out of India is itself a luxury that most Indians will never enjoy.
The unfortunate part about that one comment is it will dominate and overshadow everything else you said, lending succor to those who think that stars like you live in India while their hearts live in Pakistan. Much what you said needed to be said. Elected representatives need to hear from the likes of you when you say “when people take law into their hands, we look upon (our elected officials) to take a strong stance, to make a strong statement, speed up the legal process.” Bingo.
When you blasted the whataboutery of 1984 or the killing of Col. Santosh Mahadik by saying “Every act of terror and violence should be condemned with the same ferocity” you were unambiguous.
When you said you a person holding a Quran and killing innocents “is not a Muslim” in your eyes, you were forthright.
And when you said those returning awards should be respected because “all individuals have a right to protest” you were on the money.
In your articulate way you connected all those dots, I dare say, better than some of those returning national awards and painting a vague doom and gloom scenario. But to join all those dots and then wonder if you should move out of India means that you are mulling giving up. You do realize that if you do leave, those whose intolerance you oppose will win. It is a shame that when you connected the dots you did not say like your colleague Shah Rukh Khan that “not being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime you can do as a patriot”.
You, host of Satyamev Jayate, are no stranger to the many things wrong with this country. But you stand there and host the programme because you believe it has the potential to make it better even if it’s an uphill task to turn the tide on female feticide, homophobia or discrimination. You of all people should know it is patriotic to worry about the future of the country. It is patriotic to worry about an “increased sense of despondency” in the country. It is patriotic to be “alarmed by a number of incidents”. And indeed, contrary to what ministers say about “manufactured revolts” it is 100% patriotic to complain about “a sense of insecurity” when those in power do not condemn an act of gross intolerance.
But most of all it is patriotic to use your star power to say you are staying put right here no matter what the trolls say. It’s not because it’s your “duty to spread Hope not Fear” as your colleague Anupam Kher suggests but because this is your home and you belong to it without question even when, make that especially when aal izz not so well.