Aamir Khan fears rising intolerance, raises hackles
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New Delhi: Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s comments on “rising intolerance” in India sharply divided polity, sparking a heated and acrimonious debate as political parties and their members, actors and commentators took sides while social media buzzed over the actor’s revelation that his wife had asked him whether they should leave the country as “she fears for her child”.
The Congress, Left, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party backed the actor, with Rahul Gandhi tweeting that the Centre should “reach out to people” and not bully them.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) two Muslim faces—minister of state for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain—debunked charges of intolerance in the country and said Khan would find that in other countries. “The political propaganda on intolerance may have influenced him but I want to tell him that there is no reason for him to leave the country and nor will this country allow him to leave,” said Naqvi.
Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said “some people are misleading and some people are misled”. “Who comes in which category, I do not want to say. Some are propagating wrong things some are coming under wrong propaganda, he said, adding that people in India were tolerant. “Recently since our government came, communal clashes have come down.”
Khan’s comments evoked both vitriol and compassion on social media. Many took to Facebook and Twitter to attack Khan, even as others defended his right to freely express his opinion.
The harshest attacks were from within the film fraternity itself. Actor Anupam Kher tweeted:
Dear @aamir_khan. Did you tell Kiran that you have lived through more worse times in this country & but you never thought of moving out.— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) November 23, 2015
Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit tweeted:
Director Ram Gopal Verma tweeted: “India is the most tolerant country in the world. Such statements send a wrong signal.”
Actors Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal urged Khan to stay back. “Mr.&Mrs. Amir Khan. When things are going wrong and the system needs correction, repair it, mend it. Don’t run away from it. That is Heroism!” tweeted Kapoor. “Aamir is a fighter so he should not leave but change the situation in the country! jeena yahan marna yahan!” read Rawal’s tweet.
But there were as many voices standing up for Khan. These included TV news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai who tweeted:
And can we please allow @aamir_khan to express his opinion without labelling him or anyone. Jiyo Aur jeene do is what makes India great!— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 24, 2015
Journalist Vir Sanghvi added:
Hey Sanghi Control Rooms:if you ask your trolls to viciously attack Aamir for complaining about intolerance, don't you just prove his point?— vir sanghvi (@virsanghvi) November 24, 2015
“I think, for the first time in his life, he tripped up in a public space, which he normally owns. It was a monumental slip up. That’s it,” writes Shobhaa De for NDTV.
“Is it okay to tell ordinary citizens who are critical of certain government policies to “Go to Pakistan” and leave the country... but not okay for a star to say his wife was deeply concerned about the future of their son... and therefore thought of leaving India?” De asks.
She also wondered in her piece “whether the reactions to Aamir Khan’s candid confessions would have been less vicious had his name been Arun Khanna”.
Aamir Khan and his wife Kiran Rao are not the only ones to have wondered if they should leave the country because they feel vulnerable and worried for their child’s future because of the religious nationalism and the bigotry that seem to have crept in. But they are perhaps the only ones with a public profile to say this out loud, said an article in Scroll.in.
Over the last two decades, cycles of communal violence and freely expressed religious chauvinism have made many people wonder the same thing. From explaining why prospective landlords refuse to rent once they find out the family is Muslim, battling school teachers (even at some of Delhi’s posh schools) who assume that a child supports terrorism and the Pakistan cricket team because she is a Muslim, attacks on meat shops and meat eaters, to politicians who assert that India is a Hindu nation, there is a minefield of prejudice that parents have to teach their children to negotiate.
In fact, for disturbing evidence of our growing intolerance to criticism and freedom of expression, you need to look no further than the acerbic, volatile reactions to actor Aamir Khan’s statement that his wife Kiran Rao suggested leaving India, said a Firstpost article.