Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan has recently been pilloried for speaking out strongly on the rising intolerance in the country and how it could affect the people of the nation.
Shah Rukh during an interview to a TV channel on his 50th birthday had expressed the same anxiety shared by the President of India as well as the crores of citizens over religious intolerance. He said that there was extreme intolerance in the country that would take India to the dark ages and that not being secular was the worst crime a patriot can do. The actor didn’t take anyone by name and his mature thought provoking statements should be taken with deserved seriousness. As usual, his comments annoyed the ruling party whose leaders came out openly issuing humiliating communal comments about the actor. Kailash Vijaybargiya, senior BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh called the star a ‘deshdrohi’ saying that even though Shah Rukh lived in India, his soul resided in Pakistan. Vijaybargiya also said that Shah Rukh’s statements were part of Pak conspiracy to destroy the image of the country that was trying for a permanent membership in the UN Security Council. Shah Rukh has also been compared to a Pakistan agent by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi. There seems to be hardly anyone in the party to rein them down. The son of Meer Taj Mohammed Khan, who came from Peshawar to take part in the freedom struggle under Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Lateef Fatima Khan who was the adopted daughter of Shah Nawaz Khan, the Major General of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA), all at once became a traitor and somebody who has no right to live in the country. All remarks against the star come despite being the heartthrob of millions and the pride of the nation in front of the world. Yogi Adityanath and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi also hurled igniting statements against the star.
The Shiv Sena however came forward defending Shah Rukh. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who has a PhD in splitting the citizens along communal lines by igniting anti-Pak politics, said that BJP was targeting the star only because he was a Muslim. Denying a Pak family who was on a visit to Mumbai, hotels for accommodation forcing them to wander all night is one inevitable consequence of such deliberately generated fear. By vandalizing cinema halls showing the movies of the Khans, burning the books on opinions different from theirs, destroying the newspapers that publish criticizing columns, banning artists, litterateurs and sports persons, what kind of secularism and tolerance are we presenting before the world? The world would be condemning and at the same time mocking the nation whose leaders never tire to exaggerate about the rapidly growing secular world power. The fact to be ridiculed is the BJP’s anxiety over the attempts to tarnish the image of India. With people like Kailash and Yogi Adityanath already present, no outsiders are needed to destroy the picture of the country before the world. The ruling party promptly ‘sends to Pakistan’ anyone writing or issuing statements against them particularly if they are Muslims. The BJP and the Sangh Parivar has been trying to transform the country into a ‘one-religion’ nation ever since Modi came to power carrying out their ‘saffronising’ agenda through such controversies. Despite having two countries to choose from, the Indian Muslims had proudly opted to stay in the country. That alone is sufficient to establish their love for the nation. India is a democratic country where all the citizens are equal and have equal rights. India belongs to me, you and all the millions of citizens in the country. Nobody has any special rights to shove away any particular person or community. The democracy allows everyone the right to criticize the government as well as the social set ups and the right to analyse and openly express the sentiments. If the ruling party still persists on gauging patriotism by religion and colour and curtail the freedom of expression, then we too back Shah Rukh Khan. ‘Shut up’, India is ours too.