Protesting in front of Aamir Khan’s house, calling him a traitor, launching a nationwide smear campaign against him, hurling invectives on social media, suggesting that he goes to Saudi Arabia, filing FIRs and vowing to boycott his films in the future, etc., are some of the reactions from the public that we saw after Aamir Khan’s comments at the Goenka Awards on 23rd November, 2015.
What did Aamir Khan say at those awards that warranted such a response? He expressed his point of view that there is rising intolerance in India, something that scares his wife Kiran Rao, who once expressed concern and wanted to leave the country. Seeing the reactions to Aamir’s expression of speech has saddened me.
I believe that these reactions are totally puerile, unwarranted, uncalled for and are an infringement of a person’s constitutionally enshrined democratic right of free expression. These intimidatory tactics are classic fascist stratagems that aim to cow down anyone who doesn’t tow the line and aims to instill a psychological fear in their mind.
It seems to me that the masses have this obsession with a form of -aggressive nationalism that rouses their sentiments, the moment someone speaks against the nation or their concept of nationality.
People should understand the fine demarcation between Patriotism and Nationalism.
According to Edward Abbey, Patriotism is to protect the country against the Government when the Government is wrong.
Whereas, Nationalism, especially right-wing nationalism is a cult. A cult of extremism, violence, immense pride in one’s culture, tradition, language etc., and scorning at all others as being unworthy, vile, polluted and barbaric.
An extreme manifestation of chauvinism is Nationalism.
Nationalism has always had fascist connotations. And nationalism always emanates conflicts, wars and violence, as we have seen from the First and Second World Wars.
We all saw how the Hindu Mahasabha protested outside Aamir Khan’s house post his statements. Those with such sectarian sentiments should understand that they should curtail their sanctimonious chest thumping jingoism that just makes them run amok like a bull in a China shop at the mere mention that someone wishes to leave the country.
I had personally criticised Aamir Khan for his statement when I first heard of it, which in my reckoning reeked of hypocrisy, self-righteousness and was a gimmick. Personally, I don’t believe the entire environment in India is intolerant, but the reactions to his statement worry me.
I had all the right reasons to castigate him and so does everyone else, after all we all have a right to free speech, with which comes a window of criticism and questioning. But criticism of any individual, however scathing, has to be in the bounds of civility, else it ceases to be constructive criticism or even a searing vitriol and turns into unabated hooliganism by politically/ ideologically motivated hoodlums and miscreants.
There are some points which I would like to bring to the notice of those who unceremoniously reacted to Aamir Khan and continue to do so, with their statements to boycott his movies:
1) What Aamir Khan said, keeping aside the veracity of his statement or his possible motivations, was totally legitimate and was no criminal offence.
A citizen of India has all the rights of freedom of expression and other fellow compatriots too have all the rights to fulminate, rhetort and pen rejoinders. But hysterically protesting against him and filing FIRs are totally unwarranted.
2) Any person living in India is not compelled, in any way to subscribe to a particular brand of nationalism or even be an ardent patriot. It’s insanity to even presume such an absurd thought and protest against someone for not being a ‘Nationalist’ or a ‘Patriot’.
As long as a person abides by constitutional principles, the law of the land and hasn’t been booked in the past for a misdemeanour, financial impropriety or a heinous criminal offense, it is no one’s concern what ‘ism’ (ideology) a person follows. Whether he loves his country or mocks/derides/lampoons the nation are all fine unless he is in cahoots with some agencies or syndicates that are against the interests of the citizenry and the nation at large.
3) Migration and seeking greener pastures has been going on since the inception of human civilization. It’s a phenomenon that is perhaps as old as the evolution of the homo sapiens. Migration has contributed a lot to our educational and scientific developments, aesthetic and artistic attainments, culinary refinements and confluence of philosophical/ cultural streams leading to a composite, syncretic, plural and heterodox crucible or melting pot of cultures.
So being xenophobic about Aamir Khan’s statement about ‘leaving the country’ is tantamount to bring infantile, philistine and intellectually asinine.
4) When Indians have sailed to placid harbours overseas for centuries, and the vibrant Indian diaspora is across all the continents from Kuala Lumpur to Vancouver and from Seoul to Rio De Janeiro, why froth at the mouth when someone has purportedly expressed his wish to migrate, be it for whatever reasons.
Some of the biggest sponsors of RSS/ BJP are overseas Indians and PM Modi’s most loyal followers are NRIs/ PIOs.
What I want to express through this article is that it is completely baseless for us to ‘protest’ on the streets or hurl abuses against someone for expressing their opinion. Our dissent is and should be personal, it is not something we can force on other people. Now whether Aamir Khan wants to leave the country or not is his personal choice, we shouldn’t compel him to do it because it is ‘our choice’.