By Lipi Mehta:
Editor’s Note: On 23rd November, 2015, at the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism 2015, actor Aamir Khan expressed his concern around the rising cases of intolerance in the country. Aamir Khan expressed his solidarity with those who had expressed their dissatisfaction. Alarmed by a ‘number of incidents’, Khan also revealed that his wife Kiran Rao had at one time asked him whether they should leave the country. He also spoke on how the media and society always linked terrorism with Islam.
Aamir Khan’s statements have garnered praise and also sparked heavy outrage. What has angered many is not Khan’s concern with ‘intolerance’, rather his wife’s statement to leave the country. Director Mahesh Bhatt has come out in support of Khan, and has explained his stance by saying:
— CNN-IBN News (@ibnlive) November 24, 2015
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on the other hand, has stated that Aamir Khan is very much ‘safe’ within India, and his comment is a ‘politically motivated campaign’ insulting those who have given him much honour here in India. Not only Naqvi, Anupam Kher, who has till now been very much against the returning of awards as a sign of protest also tweeted:
As the poiltical/social media buzz on what he said becomes louder, here are 10 highlights from Aamir Khan’s conversation with Anant Goenka from that interview:
Khan was asked what he thinks of how “After a long time, artists have been getting up and taking a stance.” He clearly stated that for creative people, it is important to voice what they feel. “I think that for a creative person one of the ways of expressing their dissatisfaction or disappointment is to return awards. That’s one way of getting your point across, certainly.”
When asked if he “endorses” the way that the creative fraternity is protesting, he said, “I would endorse any protest which is non-violent. All individuals have a right to protest and they can protest in any manner that they feel is right as long as they are not taking the law in their hands or physically harming anybody.”
When asked if he “agrees with the protest or thinks that it’s premature”, Khan said that his understanding is that a lot of the creative fraternity is protesting because of the growing discomfort they feel, or the growing atmosphere of intolerance. He added, “As an individual, as a part of this country, as a citizen, we read in the papers what’s happening, we see what’s happening and certainly I have also been alarmed. I can’t deny that I haven’t been alarmed by a number of incidents and for any society, it’s very important to have a sense of security.”
Khan continued talking about growing intolerance and acts of violence and said that for any society to feel a sense of security, two things are of crucial importance. One is a sense of justice, that any unlawful acts will meet their expected outcome, that justice will take its course. And two, the need for our elected representatives to make strong statements in times of violence, speed up the legal process and make us feel reassured as citizens.
When asked if he feels there is a bigger sense of insecurity and fear than earlier, Khan said yes. “In the last 6-8 months there has been a growing sense of despondency. When I sit at home and talk to Kiran and Kiran says, “Should we move out of India?” Now that’s a disastrous and very big statement. She fears for her child and what the atmosphere around us will be. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet. One part of this is alarm and the other is despondency.”
When asked if he has complete faith in the media, Khan said that “I wouldn’t say I have complete faith in the media, there are a lot of journalists who are upholding what media stands for. Media is important because the social fabric that exists around us today is reflected in the it, and the social fabric is not at its best right now.”
Political parties, right now it’s the BJP in power, when they are questioned in TV debates say, “But what happened in 1984…” but that doesn’t make right what’s happening now.
At the end of the day, you have to follow your heart, your conviction, and when you do that there is an energy that comes into your work, your journalism.
When asked about his views on how terrorism is getting linked to Islam, Khan said, “Acts of terror are not connected to any religion. A Muslim who is following an act of terror, is not following Islam, and same for a Hindu. Instead of calling them a Hindu terrorist or Christian terrorist or Muslim terrorist, you should just call them a terrorist and remove the religion tag from it. He or she is not doing what the religion is saying. The first mistake we make is label them as ‘Hindu terrorist’ or ‘Muslim terrorist’, or what have you.”
He added, “Our reaction to violence should be identical whether it is one community doing it or another. Every act of terror and violence has to be condemned with the same ferocity. My problem is not just with ISIS, it’s with the kind of extreme thinking.”
“A vast majority of the modern Muslims, which is actually a vast majority of Muslims, are upset with what is happening, they feel uncomfortable with what is happening and if I am not mistaken, a number of Muslim organisations have begun to openly speak out against ISIS and other terror groups.”
When asked if more influential Muslim personalities like him should represent the community and speak up against unfair labelling, Khan said, “If I have represent someone, why should I not represent everyone, why should I have to represent Muslims? In the capacity of myself as an individual, if I am representing my country or society, I stand for everyone, not just for a certain section of society.”
Khan said some powerful things about the impact that creative people can have on society. “Doctors can give you health but writers and storytellers can change your mind. They can change your heart, they can change the way you feel about something and that is an extremely important aspect of nation building. One of the biggest challenges we face is not how to address one particular issue or another, but to address the issue of us as a people. How can we as a people come together? Until we widen our understanding of self, it’ll be a long time before we can change and it is the creative people who can have a huge impact in a short period of time. It’s the creative people who can build the nation from the people.”
On being asked about his kiss in Raja Hindustani vis a vis the Censor Board’s decision to cut the length of kissing scenes in Spectre, Khan laughed and said, “I feel lucky.” He continued, “The Censor board off late, what I have heard being reported is that it is behaving in a slightly alarming way, it is reacting to things which earlier, we as free people, as adult people could make our own choices as to what we want to watch and what we do not want to watch. It has been a little aggressive in its approach in the last 6-8 months which is worrying, and I hope it changes.”
Update: News has come in that a complaint has been filed against Aamir Khan in New Delhi over his statement that there is a sense of insecurity in the country.