Ah, my country. My beloved India… I feel so disappointed writing this post coz, once again, we have shown the impatience and (dare I say this too early) intolerance to someone hinting at the possibility that India may be imperfect.
I say, “we” as I represent India and our society in another country every day and sometimes have to explain to baffled non-Indians why some of these things happen. And before you say it, yes, I do have a right to speak and call out my country’s flaws even though I don’t live there.
Some background on the core issue: celebrated actor, Aamir Khan in a recent interview spoke of how he has begun to feel more insecure in India, and so much so that he and his wife, Kiran even discussed moving to another country.
Even if you’re aware of this, I urge you to watch the video. It’s just 15 minutes.
And there we go… Everyone is offended and social media launches its usual vile attack on its latest victim. In addition to the passive-aggressive personal attacks, some people even suggest countries for him and his family to take (Pakistan, anyone?). I’m pretty sure a majority of us haven’t seen the full video before reacting.
Let’s just call a spade a spade and for starters, admit that a good majority of the Indian population didn’t like what he said. The media outrage proved that. But my concern is not the how, but the why and what of the reaction.
We couldn’t tolerate someone saying that there is a growing sense of intolerance in the society when the fact of the matter is that it’s true! I’ve said this in a previous post and I’ll say it again: The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is one!
Case in point 1: The attack and murder of Mohammad Akhlaq by a Hindu mob in Dadri on the night of September 28th, 2015 following “rumors” (yes, RUMORS) that his family has killed and consumed beef on the occasion of Eid. Firstly, a Muslim man eating beef on Eid is part of their religion and should not a problem if he’s not shoving it down a Hindu’s throat against his will. Secondly, the man was flogged to death in front of his family coz Hindus didn’t like the RUMORS about him.
Case in point 2: Nagaland man seized from prison and beaten to death by 22 men coz he was “accused” (yes, ACCUSED) of rape.
Case in point 3: A Madhya Pradesh woman beaten with lathis, stripped and forced to drink urine over a land dispute.
You may say these are extreme cases, but, you can’t disagree that it doesn’t take much for people to take offense and launch communal violence in India.
We ban a comedy show (AIB Roast) coz it has foul language and insults the people who VOLUNTARILY PARTICIPATED IN IT. We ban the consumption of beef in a secular country coz the Hindus don’t like it. We ban a Pakistani singer’s (Ghulam Ali) concert in Mumbai coz he’s a Pakistani and a Muslim. We blacken the face of an Indian on the day he would attend the book-launch of a Pakistani.
If you’re still not convinced, read the first few links on this Google Search for “communal violence in India”.
You may even say that it’s part of the uneducated society, but here’s what some of our prominent film industry personnel had to say to Aamir Khan after his comments:
Dear @aamir_khan. Did you ask Kiran which country would she like to move out to? Did you tell her that this country has made you AAMIR KHAN.
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) November 23, 2015
Yes and No, Anupam Uncle… Aamir Khan made himself with the support of our country and appreciation for his creative talents. But how is that related to him feeling that we’re intolerant? Can a man not call out his concerns over the flaws of his own country? Grow up, Sir.
In a predominantly Hindu country,if 3 Muslims can become the biggest iconic super stars that itself proves the majority aren’t intolerant
— Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin) November 24, 2015
Firstly, RGV, my dear man, India is NOT A HINDU COUNTRY. We are a secular country who shouldn’t feel proud JUST BECAUSE a few Muslim guys became movie stars. (Also, you only need to look at the number of people who watch your movies all the way through to judge tolerance levels.)
Intolerance !PK did rattle the belief of Hindus but Aamir dint face the wrath of Hindu or THE MAJORITY n but was super hit n made crores !
— Paresh Rawal (@SirPareshRawal) November 23, 2015
Mr. Paresh Rawal, FYI, almost every Hindu group in the country protested this movie and it was even banned in some states and cities. And you call us tolerant coz Aamir Khan “didn’t face the WRATH of the Hindus”?
The comment below was later denied by Tasleema Nasreen as being her’s, which means that we needed to put another artists face on a false statement to prove a no-point.
Whoever made and shared this post, do you really want to go by Pakistan’s and Bangladesh’s standard of law and justice to prove your point?
In a Facebook post discussion on this issue this morning, a friend threw this point at me (some typos from the original comment have been corrected):
do you feel secure in the US? Do you think Racism exists there? Do you think it is tolerant? I’m not comparing.. Just asking because you’ve been living there for quite some time now!
I know of an American school kid who was thought to be a terrorist because of his religion.I get a feeling that US is turning into an intolerant society. Do you think people of that community feel secure about raising their children in that country?
Do you think UK is tolerant? I heard Racism is far more rampant there.. do You think one can feel safe to raise kids there?
Well.. maybe after this discussion, we could suggest Amir Khan some countries, he can consider moving out to!
Correction: the kid in the US was not thought to be a terrorist coz of his religion. He was taken in for questioning coz he brought a device in class that looked like a bomb and claimed it was a clock. He was released after questioning but could never prove that it was a clock. The point is: precautions were taken, it was resolved. Nobody got offended. Nobody got publicly lynched and murdered.
There is some racism in both the UK and US. When it’s reported, a proper trial takes places and justice is served. Is the system perfect? No. But does anyone tolerate racism and/or publicly announce an accused person’s guilt and kill him in a gruesome delivery of mob justice? No.
More to the point, Aamir Khan never spoke of any other country’s imperfections or lack thereof. How does that make Aamir Khan a “hypocrite” (as the friend called him)?
It’s a matter of convenience that we choose comparisons to the US when it comes to looking at the flaws in our countries but outright reject WESTERNIZATION in the name of our so-called culture and traditions when it comes to civil liberties, creative freedom and government. (Double standards, much?)
Let’s conclude by summarizing 2 key aspects of this issue:
1: What Aamir Khan Said
- Protests are a form of expression, as long as laws aren’t broken in the process
- There can be acts of violence anywhere in the world
- There needs to be a sense of justice and security
- It doesn’t matter which party runs the government
- He and his wife are concerned for their children and the “growing atmosphere of intolerance” in the society. She even mentioned once that she may want to leave the country
- A terrorist has no religion
2: What Aamir Khan Didn’t Say
- NO, it wasn’t a publicity stunt on Aamir Khan’s part.
- NO, he didn’t say he wants to leave the country.
- NO, he didn’t say that every Indian is intolerant.
- NO, he didn’t say India is the only intolerant country.
- NO, he didn’t say India has no justice system.
- And, NO, he DID NOT SAY THAT EVERY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS PERFECT.
Let’s just calm down, ponder upon what he meant by the persistent levels of intolerance and violence in our country, acknowledge that it is an issue and educate the people on how we can work our way to a better and safer tomorrow.