Reasoning with Aamir Khan on his sudden realisation of intolerance

Sreejith Panickar
Sreejith PanickarNov 26, 2015 | 12:14

Reasoning with Aamir Khan on his sudden realisation of intolerance

Aamir Khan too climbed on the intolerance bandwagon, creating another major rift between people, including his own fans. As expected, the divide between those who support and oppose the existence of intolerance in the country has grown wider.

In the first place, Aamir never said whether he felt the intolerance because of his religion. We know his wife is a Hindu and that it was she who deliberated about escaping the country after seeing recent newspaper reports.


What did she find in the newspaper? Maybe the news about the terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur, beef ban and the incidents that followed, or even the hate speeches by religious fanatics - not clear. Beef ban resulted in an unfortunate and condemnable death, but luckily it never started a trend. The debate that followed in newspapers were the discussions on the issue - by those who favoured or opposed the ban. Will that make the newspapers look scary? Not really.

Aamir said that he too is personally alarmed and depressed at this rising intolerance. The word "intolerance" now has a connection with the views and beliefs of the minority. But since he never said about any religion-intolerance connection, what could be the real reason?

The fact of the matter is, Aamir never gave a reason. He only said that he started sensing intolerance in the last six to eight months. Beef ban happened about three-four months ago. The Dadri incident happened barely two months ago. So naturally, I am made to think he intended the statements of the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Prachi as the triggering points of intolerance.


It is unfortunate that despite getting a good opportunity to express the reasons for his worry and despondency, Aamir never made full use of it. He was bold enough to say he felt a rising atmosphere of intolerance in the country, but couldn't muster the courage to specify what really made him feel so.

Let me guess a few possibilities:

1. Award wapsi: Is Aamir himself intolerant about the award wapsi movement? Definitely not. He himself clarified that he supports all forms of non-violent protests, and specifically backed the award returning movement conceived and followed by creative people.

2. Beef ban: The only serious instance of intolerance in the last six to eight months was the beef ban. It resulted in the Dadri mob lynch incident and the Kerala House kitchen raid. Did that make the country intolerant? To a certain extent yes, but not to the extent that a celebrity starts thinking about leaving the country.

3. Hate speech: The nonsensical hate speeches by fringe elements are a concern, but we can easily rebuff those speeches with the contempt they deserve. Aamir is of the view that people should be considered as individuals and not as Hindus or Muslims. He is not one who gets agitated by such speech. To quote an example, Aamir was unmoved when Akbaruddin Owaisi spoke in Adilabad almost three years ago that the 180 million Indian Muslims needed only 15 minutes without police to show the one billion Hindus who was more powerful. He didn't react then, so naturally I guess he is not affected by hate speeches even today.


4. Modi: Was Aamir disappointed after he listened to what irresponsible politicians like Salman Khurshid and Mani Shankar Aiyar spoke to the Pakistani media about Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Less likely, because Aamir himself had vouched for a visa ban on Modi about ten years ago and had endorsed a petition that equated Modi with Adolf Hitler. He had also condemned Modi for the Godhra and the Vadodara riots.

5. Terrorism: Aamir spoke against the general perspective of an Islam-terrorism connection and opined that the ISIS people did not know what Islam is. Since he is against them, he might have felt downcast at the remarks of the Samajwadi Party leader, Azam Khan that the Paris attacks might have been a natural reaction to the ill-advised actions of super powers in Iraq and Syria.

Of all the possibilities mentioned above, what could have made Aamir think the country is intolerant - I don't know. But what I do know is that there were several other instances when I would have liked him to share an opinion.

Some instances:

1. Bollywood and underworld: When the ties of the Mumbai underworld and Dawood Ibrahim with Bollywood were exposed, Aamir didn't speak much. When Sanjay Dutt was arrested under the provisions of the TADA, Aamir remained mum. Dutt enjoyed continuous and liberal furloughs against the norm, but Aamir never seemed to condemn the repeated parole of a convict and the rising intolerance it could create in the society as well as the film industry. After working with him in PK (for the shooting of which also Dutt got parole), Aamir just said that he felt secure and relaxed when working with Dutt. The same Aamir is now feeling insecurity for the last six to eight months.

2. Brand endorsement: Despite roaring protests against Coca-Cola for using up all ground water in a Kerala village and the high toxic content in its soft drinks, Aamir continued to endorse the product for a decade until the company decided not to renew the contract. He never really thought about the intolerance his endorsements created in the minds of the villagers and their supporters. On the contrary, Amitabh Bachchan said last year that he stopped appearing for Pepsi after a school girl confronted him and asked why he promoted a drink her teacher had branded as poison.

3. Fatwa: A little over two months ago, a Mumbai-based Muslim group had imposed fatwa on musician AR Rahman for composing music for an Iranian film about Prophet Muhammad. Aamir didn't speak up for Rahman. Why didn't he think that such unjustifiable fatwas would create a rising intolerance within the Muslim community?

4. Section 66A: Thank god, Aamir Khan now enjoys freedom of speech, which allowed him to express his thoughts openly. The Congress government had included Section 66A in the Information Technology Act, which drastically reduced one's right to opinion. Aamir never saw anything intolerant back then and had nothing to say about it. The very fact that he can express his thoughts freely and safely today is enough proof that the country is still largely tolerant.

At the same time, there is perceivable intolerance in the country after Aamir aired his thoughts. Calling him a traitor is completely unacceptable. It is criminal to ask or threaten him to leave the country. One must respect Aamir's right to express his opinion, and at the same time, Aamir should reciprocate that by respecting the right of other people to agree or disagree with him. Aamir got a smashing hit like PK purely because the country remained tolerant. PK, with the kind of content it had, could not have become the highest grossing Indian film of all time if it did not have the support of the majority of the 80 per cent Hindus in India.

I have been trying to reason with Aamir Khan through this article, over his sudden realisation of intolerance. I now stop assuming things, Aamir. But if I were you, I would have called myself a hypocrite, at least in the privacy of my bath. I hope you also do that.

Last updated: November 26, 2015 | 17:20
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