It’s easy to attack Aamir Khan. Bring up Mela or Love Love Love or his crore-a-pop Satyameva Jayate technicolor tears. But we shouldn’t. That would be petty. Such attacks, we are told, are fine for the Gajendras and the Nihalanis and, by current account, the Khers and the Tandons.
So let’s look at what he has been saying. And so many other countless award-returnees.
Rising intolerance under Modi.
As we have seen, the data does not support the claim. The “intolerance” level has remained the same. But then we are told, that the data does not matter. What matters is perception. Of course the same logic (perception trumps data) could be used to justify the invasion of Iraq (no data about weapons of mass destruction but hey this Saddam is a shifty guy, he could gas his people, so surely we perceive he may have new-killer weapons to use on US), or that the sun moves around the earth (I don’t care what the data says, I look at the damn thing, and I see it move, from east to west) or any kind of prejudice (my perception is that Bengalis are lazy).
Okay. That last one is actually supported by data. But moving on.
India does have a problem. A huge problem. And it’s not new. It pre-dates Modi and will be there long after he has visited every country in the world and every planet in the solar system.
So what is that mitron?
The law does not apply to the strong.
Which is why you can kill someone while drunk-driving and blame it on the driver. Which is why you can steal crores, hundreds of crores, without any sanction. Which is why you can openly exhort men to riot, and then be cremated with state honors.
For the strong, there is always a setting, a jugaad, a phone-call.
Now most of us are weak. We run scared of income tax, we stand in line to get onto buses, we get fleeced by everyone–from policemen to men-behind-desks-in-government-offices. The only time when we get to be strong is when we become part of the mob.
Kill someone alone, and you get jail.
Kill someone in a group, and you stay home.
We as common Indian individuals are susceptible to violence from a group. Any group. Any group with a cause. Khap Panchayat. Lynch mobs. Beef vigilantes. Caste armies with detergent-like names (Sunlight Sena). Moral police. Union workers. Manoos Sena. Kashmiri “Azaadi” folks.
In a moderately ideal society, the law provides the individual the power of the group—a police force, a legal system, and the assurance that if you are in the right, the group will stand behind you.
In India that system has been broken. For ages.
Which is why every political party harnesses the power of the mob from Mamata to Modi, from Amma to the Gandhis. It is the easiest way to make their constituents feel “powerful”, supply them a narrative around which they may coalesce to form a violent swarm. This narrative may be “beef” or “love jihaad” or “Tasleema Nasreen” or “cell-phone carrying bar-going women” or “CPM cadres” or “Bhaiyyas taking our jobs” or “Africans doing things not done in decent localities”. All that changes is the context, the rest remains the same.
This is the basic problem. The rest is all politics. Every political group creates its own prism, lights up the part that is aligned with its philosophy and darkens the rest. So the “seculars” would concentrate on one form of violence and ignore the other (or provide a justification citing “context” and yes you know who I am talking about), while the “Bhakts” would do exactly the opposite, and each would then accuse the other of “selective memory” or “whataboutery”.
What makes Kiran Rao’s statement particularly Dhoom-3 (could not resist that) is that she knows, as well as more or less everyone, that she has nothing to fear. She can eat beef, have a rave party, do pretty much anything she wants to, and her privilege will protect her. By making this about herself (when it is not), she actually trivializes the fear of those who actually have reason to fear the mob.
People like me. I remember years ago, a gunda in a bike rammed into our car, and then started threatening my father that he and his friends would break our car if we did not pay him. There was no one to protect us. Not the police. Not the administration. Nothing. We were not politically connected, nor particularly rich, and that made us fair game.
In this particular case, what protected us was, miraculously, the father of the gunda, who was at that time getting on a bus at the bus stand near to which this was happening. He dragged his son away, and apologized to my father.
Almost like a scene out of an Aamir Khan movie.
This is the malaise. Now if we can recognize this, without the ideological blinkers, maybe just maybe someday we might be able to do something about this.
But till that happens, you know who to blame.