Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan and their ilk have already made a fortune through the same public cheers, but now they ‘fear safety’ in India. The latest is from Zameer Uddin Shah, ex-Lt General in the Indian Army. Considering their successes, such reactions on safety seem fake, pregnant with sinister design
We have now one more Muslim who feels insecure in this country. Thinking about his children’s safety in India makes Naseeruddin Shah shudder. This comes on the heels of the recent autobiographical account penned in The Sarkari Mussalman by his brother Zameer Uddin Shah, who was a Lt General and also Deputy Chief of staff of the Indian Army.
Zameer Shah was also the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. He has wrote in the book the role of the State Government, both in surreptitiously inciting and later handling riots which spread after burning of the train coach with karsevaks.
Zameer Shah was tasked to lead the Army troops in riot-torn Ahmedabad. What is more dismaying now in his statements is that by remaining silent then in the line of duty and several years since, is it not his implicit admission of having given precedence to personal convenience over his duty oath, reasons best known to him?
Sometime back, Aamir Khan too had expressed same fears: feeling unsafe in India. The words of expression of these two artists are identical, and similarities go further. Both have Hindu wives — now either because of my lack of more knowledge about their personal lives, or to avoid intrusion in their private lives, I should not make any comment on whether their children go to temple or mosque or do not care about these and just remain human beings, a topic so impressively filmed in the PK that it became pure social message wrapped in entertainment.
Both Shah and Khan came from non-film backgrounds but didn’t have to acquire Hindu or secular names to flourish in the show business. Even Naseeruddin’s wife Ratna Pathak Shah has retained the niche in the industry which she had when Shah was not part of her surname. They belong to an industry which has dominant presence of Muslims; on screen and behind the screen they are known for their jubilees and not their religion.
Both these actors have given a series of films which were box office hits doing enormous business — which was not possible if the Hindu audiences had any disdain. They were considered true artistes and people have seen them as such and not as Hindus or Muslims. Both are honoured with Padma Bhushans, besides numerous other recognitions, including an honorary doctorate for Aamir.
The similarities go further, both reside in ivory towers of the tinsel town and are generally cut off from society because of security concerns and they cannot be assumed to face any kind of risks firsthand.
I am more pained when such statements come from no vigilantes but celebrities or those who held high position in public life. As long as the Hindus were gyrating to the tunes of Nadeem (Nadeem Shrawan duo) there was nothing wrong, the dangers faced by Muslims in India dawned upon him only when he needed to evade extradition from the UK in a criminal case here.
Giving such reactions, specially after demitting a public position or past one’s prime in their fields, are not genuine concern of safety but something sinister. They have already made castles of their dreams through the same public cheers and now make comments which when played in social media and TV debates acquire devastating momentum. It is this momentum which is to be dreaded and not stray incidents of which, unfortunately but realistically, no society is free from.
Before searching of utopia for themselves and their children, they should get some idea of places on this earth. Before opening mouth, they have not cared to look around. They have not heard of African nations where to perpetuate corrupt regimes rulers muzzle people’s voice and order massacre of rival ethnic and tribal groups without fearing to answer anybody. Millions of people have perished for no reasons of theirs.
When the elite of our country speaks of its dangers, they can afford to do so because we are luckier to have this freedom to speak than millions of the deprived. They overlook the millions displaced internally and externally with generations ending up in refugee camps or in boats sinking under their weight.
These refugees are also cause of growing ultra-rightist parties in Europe, and already, they are threats to international economy. They forget that the only mass displaced persons in this country are Kashmiri pundits, forced out from no place other than the State enjoying a special status. If Europe or America is in their eyes, even if allowed migration there, safety is not guaranteed there as well. Before it is bon voyage, they consult reports of rampant violence in society, be it colour based or simply mindless shootings on school campuses while the discrimination faced by the Black Americans against the White police is well documented.
Albeit, let us not shy away from stray violence taking place in our midst too but they were more a law and order issue than a planned killing. These incidents have been invariable condemned by society and if culprits have escaped, it is more due to rule of law than any design. The Indian Army is ideally insulated from political ambitions and a patronage of insurgents can never be even dreamed of. We must adhere to peace and non-violence and ensure that “Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan” remains our moto.
Shah and Khan speak so despite this country remaining the oasis of peace and harmony in the surrounding is sheer perversion. The democratic process, begun once we got Independence from the British rule, has fully sustained, violent regime changes unknown.n
(The writer is Associate Professor of Political Science, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi)