The #SalmanVerdict: Too Much ‘Bhai’chara?

Posted on May 7, 2015 in Media

By Nishtha Relan:

It took the Indian Judiciary 13 years to announce its first verdict to Salman Khan, accused in the hit-and-run case of 2002 (with 1 person dead, 4 injured) –the same time it takes one to graduate school. He was held guilty of culpable homicide, among other charges, and was sentenced to five years of imprisonment on 6th May, 2015, by the Sessions Court in Mumbai. Within 2 hours, he was granted bail by the Mumbai High Court till Friday, his next hearing.

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Of course, millions of fans of ‘Bhaijaan’ are heart-broken; they are praying for his acquittal and safe return to his home, and to Bollywood. Several famous Bollywood personalities have shown surprising levels of faith in Salman Khan’s goodness and their never-ending support for him, including the shocking and insensitive tweet by Bollywood Singer, Abhijeet, comparing foot-path dwellers to dogs, calling them criminals for sleeping on the roadside.

It is both disappointing and scary that the Indian audience – of Bollywood and of this verdict – was rooting for Salman’s acquittal. The hopeless sycophancy of the starlets of the Bollywood industry can still be understood as either hypocrisy or some sort of all-obliging sense of fraternity, but I fail to understand the ridiculous conviction with which Salman’s ardent admirers are voicing one excuse after the other, trying to soften the crime by listing his work of charity.

He might be helping poor kids with some medical treatment, or providing people with employment or running whichever charity program, but he apparently has a ‘large heart’ only because he has enough ‘moolah’ to keep it going and compensate for the accident that happened in 2002. And what does having a generous heart have to do with a person’s trial in the court at all? Salman is being tried for the charges levied against him for a hit-and-run incident, not for his acting abilities, his generosity with his money, or the profit his movies make in the cinemas!

The hearing is a part of the judicial process. Ideally, it would be a positive sign that however famous a celebrity Salman Khan is, he is being tried just and fair. Doesn’t the common man want exactly that, to bridge the gap between the judgement meted out to the rich and the poor, when it comes to the fundamental human rights? It is disheartening to see the Indian public, so overwhelmed by the worshipping of a celebrity, and such high sense of entitlement given to just another human, that it would be working towards widening that very gap itself, mindlessly.

It is extremely important at this point in time, and especially in this particular case, that the Indian audience learns to divorce the character played by Salman from his act of social generosity, and the inflated image of superiority that several celebrities must keep up, by subjecting him to the same institution of law and order, with the same status as any other man. Also, the general public is intelligent enough to know that Salman had funds aplenty to hire good lawyers, he wasn’t ‘harassed’ or ‘hounded’ by them; he had employed them, and that the 13-year delay in the judgement is the least of the problems caused to him.

Despite all the love and affection of the millions for the successful showman, it would be great to see justice served, however delayed.