By Vikram Muthanna
Considering the ferocity of the backlash, one would think Aamir Khan has packed his bags and is off to a tolerant nation…I was wondering which country could Aamir immigrate to, if he really wanted to? A country where he will be accepted 100%?
Could he go to Pakistan as suggested by numerous “Hyper-Nationalists?” Nah, because as stated in my favourite Aamir Khan movie Sarfarosh, when ACP Rathod’s (Aamir Khan) wife Seema (Sonali Bendre) asks Naseeruddin Shah, who plays the role of a famous “Indian-born” Pakistani artiste Gulfam Hassan, “Jab Hindustan mein ap ke ethne chahane wale hai tho Pakistan mein kya hal hota hoga” (You are so famous in India, I can only imagine how much more famous you are in Pakistan), Hassan replies “Chahane wale bahut hai Seemaji, lekin hal hai ke, aaj be hame Muhajir kehake pukara jatha hai” (There are many who like me but the situation is that I am still called a Muhajir) and adds, “Pachas saal guzar gaye, lekin aaj be hum Muhajir hai, Pakistani nahi” (It’s been 50 years but even today we remain Muhajirs, not Pakistanis). Ok, so Pakistan is out of question then.
Then how about England? Well, the truth is Aamir may have a “Khan” problem. Here is a true story. Last year, in England, my uncle and aunt were standing in line for a taxi. They were third in line. A taxi pulled up and the driver was a middle-aged man with brown skin and a longish beard. The British “gentleman” in an attempt to mask his racism, or fear, who knows, extended his arm as if being chivalrous enough to let the lady behind him take the taxi. The lady suddenly started looking at her phone and stepped aside, indicating my uncle to go ahead. My uncle was a bit confused, but before he could react the poor taxi driver left.
Soon another taxi came by. The driver was white and beard-free. The British “gentleman” quickly hopped in and disappeared. Yes, Islam-phobia has set in and so “tolerance” is an issue there. So that too won’t do for Aamir.
Next France…Well, I have just returned from that country and my hotel receptionist, a nice man named Mohammed, an immigrant from Algeria, told me, after Charlie Hebdo shooting, he was so glad that he was a Caucasian Muslim because, “they look at brown Muslims funny.” So no luck there.
Then we have USA. Well, if Donald Trump wins then Aamir may have to wear an ID badge! Gosh, he may become target practice for some deranged red-neck. So that won’t do either.
And other European nations...Well, less said the better. How about Gulf nations? Well, we wonder if Kiran will be ok covering up before stepping out and not being allowed to drive? So forget that, that’s intolerant. Ah! Dubai! Perfect. Oh! Wait a minute, but they don’t give citizenship.
Oh! Hell with the search… Aamir is not going anywhere. Also, he doesn’t have to. He is as much an Indian and a patriot as any of us. Most of the backlash in the case of Aamir comes because of his “selective outrage.”
Selective because Aamir said this feeling of intolerance has crept in only since the last 8 months which implied since BJP government came to power. In turn, it meant the Hindu fanatics. Now, why was he not outraged when Assam communal riots happened? When Azad Maidan riots happened? Of course, two wrongs don’t make a right, but if you call one wrong, then call out the other wrongs too.
So Aamir should have cited the incidents that troubled him…was it the beef ban, was it the Dadri lynching, was it the issue of fatwa against A.R. Rehman, was it the gathering of thousands to bid farewell to Yakub Memon, the man who bombed his city Mumbai? What was it? If he had spared us this ambiguity, he wouldn’t be in this mess.
That said, Aamir has every right to feel fearful and despondent (thank you Aamir for the word of the month) as there has indeed been incidents of intolerance during the BJP rule, just like I, as a Kodava, an ethnic minority, feel fearful and despondent living under the mischief-mongering Congress rule in Karnataka.
Now, Aamir Khan must accept that the very fact that he could speak his mind about intolerance was because he knew India is a tolerant nation. How can he forget that when he made PK, a movie that mocked the beliefs of a faith followed by a majority of this nation there were no incidents. Can someone please appreciate that tolerance?
Also, let’s not forget Aamir Khan signed a petition that derided the then PM Dr. Manmohan Singh for objecting the Visa denial for Modi by the US. This petition had compared Modi to Hitler. Yet, Modi government made Aamir the Brand Ambassador of India. Is that not sign of a tolerant mindset?
Now, when Aamir agrees to a suggestion made by his wife that India is so intolerant that even a movie star like him may have to flee like a Syrian refugee, it sounds outrageous because it’s just not true. We are an evolving Democracy, not a failed State. In fact, we are the only thriving democracy on the Indian subcontinent.
That said, no one can question Aamir’s patriotism; surely he’s more patriotic than the corrupt leaders who have toyed with our nation. Unfortunately, Aamir sometimes over-dramatises — from his claims of nation-fleeing intolerance to uncontrollable tear glands. Surely that can be forgiven.
The fact of the matter is, Aamir and all the ‘award- returning’ intellectuals will have to accept that all nations have varying levels of “tolerance” depending on their diversity and demography. And a diverse and overpopulated nation like ours is bound to have them too, but that does not mean you run away. As Aamir himself says in Sarfarosh, “Mera mulk mera ghar hai…” India is our home. So we stay and fix it.
As another Bollywood superstar sang Jeena yahan marna yahan… so while we plan to “Make in India,” we also have to “Make India” because “We live in India” and will probably “Die in India.” It’s our home, only home.
P.S: For the thousands of NRIs, who have been screaming “Get out Aamir” or “Go to Pakistan Aamir” on social networks..., my dear country cousins, you please come back to India first.