At the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, Aamir Khan made some comments to contribute to the debate over acts of intolerance in our country. He said that he feels a sense of “insecurity” and “fear” considering the state of the nation.
Kiran (Rao) and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers everyday. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet.
Speaking of the growing protest rallies, he said:
As long as you don’t resort to violence, all individuals have a right to protest and they can protest in any manner they feel is right. This is certainly a way to protest for creative people.
As an individual, as a citizen, certainly I have also been alarmed, I can’t deny it, by a number of incidents. For us, as Indians, to feel a sense of security, two-three things are important. The sense of justice gives a lot of security to the common man. The second thing, that is important, are the people who are the elected representatives, at the state level or the level of the Centre… when people take law in their own hands, we look upon these representatives to take a strong stance, make strong statements and speed up the legal process to prosecute such cases. It doesn’t matter who the ruling party is.
He spoke about the blame-game too:
On television debates, I see where one political party, in this case, the BJP which is ruling right now, is accused of various things. They said, ‘But what happened in 1984?’. But that doesn’t make right what’s happening now. What happened in ‘84 was disastrous and horrendous. At other times also, through ages, whenever there is a violent act, when an innocent person is killed, be it one or a large number, that’s very unfortunate. And these unfortunate moments are the ones when we look towards our leaders to take a strong step. Make statements that are reassuring to the citizens.
Speaking about the Censor Board, he said:
The Censor Board is reacting to things that we, as free people, as adults, should make our own choices on. Essentially the certification board is supposed to mention the age for which the film is suitable. There is no censorship required after the certification. As I understand it now, it has been aggressive in its approach and it is worrying.
On terror attacks having nothing to do with religion…
Acts of terror are not connected to any religion. If he is a Muslim and he engaging in acts of terror, I don’t think he is following Islam. Or for that matter, even a Hindu who is engaging in an act of violence, is not following Hinduism. No religion teaches killing of innocents. When you see an act of terror or violence, instead of calling him a Christian or a Hindu or an Islamic terrorist, you should just call him terrorist and remove the religion tag from it. That’s the first mistake when we label them. It’s just a terrorist who doesn’t have a religion.
He also spoke about being Muslim. He said:
Firstly, why should I be representing anyone? Secondly, I have to represent anyone, why not everyone? Why Muslims? My birth may be in a Muslim household, but I speak for everyone. A person who is holding a Quran and killing people may feel he is doing it in the name of Islam, but as a Muslim, I don’t feel he is doing an Islamic act. He may claim to be a Muslim but we should not recognise him as that. My problem is not just with the ISIS, the fear is with that thinking. Today there is ISIS, tomorrow it would be someone else. This extreme thinking is what I worry about.
These comments have not gone down well with lots of people.
Case in point: Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Anupam Kher.
Mukhtar Abbas, the Minister of State for Minority Affairs said:
We won’t let Aamir leave the country, he is safe. This kind of comment influenced by a politically motivated campaign insults those who have given so much honour to Aamir in India.
And Anupam Kher tweeted:
And of course, there were jokes…
Meanwhile, no one is taking the time to observe the irony of the situation. People are being intolerant about the fact that he feels there’s intolerance in the country.