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Forty-nine Bollywood celebrities, artists and theatre personalities have spoken out this week about the allegations of growing intolerance and mob lynchings under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule in India. Curiously, not a single signatory of the open letter was a Muslim superstar.

This, in an industry whose reigning troika is Muslim– Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan. The silence of the Khans is deafening.

The three have ruled Indians’ hearts and collective imaginations for over three decades with their tales of love, heroism, and justice. But now, Bollywood’s Khan-trinity has nothing to say. Indian society has been completely left to fend for itself in the face of unexplainable hate that has gripped an otherwise ‘ganga-jamni tehzeeb’-type national consciousness. This, in spite of people like the Khans who hold the kind of power and influence to appeal to peoples’ conscience. A shining example of this is how Islamophobia-related hate crimes lessened in Liverpool since soccer star Mohamed Salah joined the club.

So, why is it so hard for the three Khans to speak the obvious?

I was wrong about India

It wasn’t always like this. Two Khans did try to speak up against intolerance. But they have now fallen silent.

On 2 November 2015, Shah Rukh Khan said: “There is extreme intolerance. Intolerance religiously, not being secular in this country, is the worst kind of crime you can do as a patriot.”

Roughly a month later, on 16 December, the same man said: “Sab kuch bahut acha hai humare desh mein. God Bless India, KOI PROBLEM NAHI HAI, aur mere saath kisi ne kuch intolerate(sic) nahi kiya hai.”

That’s pretty much all the thick skin the ‘Badshah’ of Bollywood had to tackle the trolling and abuse that came his way once he addressed the rising spate of hate crimes in India.


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The year 2014 saw three incidents of cow-related violence by mobs with 11 victims – 73 per cent of them were Muslims. The following year, the number of incidents rose to 13 with 49 victims and 11 deaths – 50 per cent of the victims were Muslims. The year 2016 turned more brutal – 67 victim and 9 deaths – while 2017 saw mob violence reaching its peak – 108 victims (with 13 killed), 60 per cent of them Muslims. So far this year, 71 per cent of the 42 victims are Muslims, with one person killed. These numbers are only for incidents that have been perpetrated in the name of cow.

So, Why does it bother me that the Khans remain silent on this? Because at the other end of the Bollywood spectrum are the Anupam Khers and the Kangana Ranauts. They leave no stone unturned when it comes to hero-worshipping the very government under which intolerance towards minorities has seen a rise, while spewing hate themselves. Just look at the tweets of Paresh Rawal, Payal Rohatgi and Koena Mitra.

Veterans like Amitabh Bachchan also don’t shy away from politically motivated statements. He rightly criticised the petrol hike during UPA 2, but simply became oh-so-oblivious to the petrol hike when it happened under the Modi government.

Add to this mix, the new Ducati-riding gurus. On a daily basis, they dish out unscientific mumbo-jumbo. This further helps Right-wing ideologues, who lack a scientific temper, and peddle quackery. And people love it. You need to watch Nityananda or Jaggi Vasudev to know what I’m saying. But when these gurus embellish their “enlightenment” workshops with statements like “liberals are fanatics”, things become dangerous.

Liberals have been murdered for less.


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I’m not really political

Maybe it’s not the Khans’ job to speak up against the social and political climate.

Maybe I’ll accept this argument. Maybe their job is to sit in their vanity vans and go about living their lives – setting their hair, getting a six-pack, playing themselves on the big screen repeatedly (not you, Aamir)!

They don’t need to be political. They don’t need to talk about things that’ll bring their Friday earnings down from Rs 300 crore to Rs 100 crore. I get it. Fair enough.

However, since when did talking about Swachh Survekshan, Jalyukta Shivar scheme and actively campaigning for a political party not become political?

So, toeing the line of the government is fine because you’re doing this for the larger good, but calling out the ills in society for the larger good of society is wrong because you’re not political like that? I need someone to decipher this hypocrisy for me.

I didn’t do/say that

The Khans are particularly sensitive because they are artistes and you’re not supposed to harass these sensitive beings into doing the right thing. You need to let them do it at their own pace.

The thing is, all of them did do the right thing, and they all retracted from it.


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So, it’s not sensitivity but cowardice.

Aamir Khan, in very clear terms, spoke about intolerance and how he and his wife discuss leaving the country.

He, just like Shah Rukh Khan, not only retracted his statement but went to the extent of saying that what he said was “something that was not true”.

Salman Khan, though, did not pretend to be concerned at all. He went ahead and campaigned for the party of his choice, the BJP, which, to be fair, is completely honest of him. Soon after, he was acquitted from the hit-and-run case, in which he had allegedly driven over people sleeping on the pavement, killing one. Since then, he’s conveniently gone radio silent politically.

I can’t see it

Many Right-wingers suggest that India is secular because the Khans are at the top in Bollywood. So, the Khans should be ashamed of themselves to talk about ‘intolerance’.

What the Right-wing ecosystem forgets is that the exponential rise of their ideology in India is only half a decade old. The Khans became the sensations that they are in the early ‘90s. They didn’t rise through hate. They rose in an India emerging from the clutches of license raj and getting cable TV.

Films ditched the overdone angry young man for the loveable boy next door. And the Khans fit perfectly.

But in today’s India, there are open calls being given to not buy ‘kanwars’ made by Muslims. Just as there are calls by an SP MLA not to buy anything from BJP (read Hindu) shops.

And probably, the Khans didn’t get this new memo.

Hate is gushing like sewage through the minds of most in ‘New India’, and people who can actually speak up about it choose to sit in their ivory towers – their Mannats and Jannats – unbothered.


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I prefer to stay out of these things

Juxtapose this with the West. Hollywood speaks up because they realise that the sum total of all individuals is the society we live in. No one can escape the malady of hate once it enmeshes with the fabric of society. Be it #MeToo or Black Lives Matter or even Islamophobia, Hollywood has come forward and addressed it unabashedly.

Yes, theirs may be a different society now, but they’ve also once been where we are – fresh at the precipice of hate. There was a time when America went into a civil war because some people believed in slavery and others didn’t, and those who didn’t, fought against it. You don’t become a just society because of the blessings of God. You work for it.

When you don’t talk about injustice, when you don’t acknowledge the targeted hate that minorities face in India, you disassociate yourself from the very society that made you who you are. That’s not just apathetic, that’s selfish.

Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan should know that a simple question like “where is this anger stemming from in young India” can make the millions of people who follow them to stop and introspect. Their voice is powerful. It can still make a difference. You don’t have to be overtly political in your message. But know that your silence is deeply political.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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30 Comments Share Your Views

30 COMMENTS

  1. Such brilliantly put article, bravo ZAINAB , you have called out the spade and have guts much stronger than those silver screen 6 packs macho . I am completely with you if some one needs to speak it is people with influence while they brag about number of followers and diligently show up at such events like ” good boys ” but pretend to be blind or oblivious to reality , well it couldn’t be for long after all super stardom have shelf life and then archived.

  2. Why should they?

    They are artists, not activists. It is not mandatory for them to react on every burning issue. As a normal human being, I do not react every time. I speak whenever I feel like. Same is the case with them. When they will feel like speaking, they will. Why do we expect superstars to guide the youth? They did not come in the movie business for this purpose.

    And even if it is something that they must speak about, then instead of doing the good, it will only do bad. And the simple reason is their Muslim identity. When they will speak, they will be trolled. “Khan toh bolega hi, Muslim jo hai.” “Muslim stars sab Modi se nafrat karte hain.”
    It won’t make any difference on this particular issue because they are themselves Muslims.

    And thirdly, in 2015, when they did try to speak out, you know what happened with them. In the West, if a celebrity raises his/her voice, then he/she will not be troubled for doing that. No matter what, their freedom of expression will be protected. Their films will not be boycotted or sabotaged.

    Besides, if the Khans speak, it also creates a law and order situation and endangers safety of movie goers and cinema hall owners.

    So, it is better to focus on work rather than doing activism or showing herogiri in real life.

    They are over 50. They have seen every phase in life. They would prefer peace of mind rather than creating a storm in the media with their statements.

    If they will speak, it will benefit only the media and some politicians and nobody else. And it will severely damage their films’ business.

    We must not forget that we live in a country where the CM of a state openly brokers a deal worth crores between a right wing sena and a film producer in return for sena not sabotaging the film’s release. Trust me, the Khans (or anybody for that matter) do not want to mess with the current regime in these times of hatred and extremism which is in the trend around the world.

  3. Why should they?

    They are artists, not activists. It is not mandatory for them to react on every burning issue. As a normal human being, I do not react every time. I speak whenever I feel like. Same is the case with them. When they will feel like speaking, they will. Why do we expect superstars to guide the youth? They did not come in the movie business for this purpose.

    And even if it is something that they must speak about, then instead of doing the good, it will only do bad. And the simple reason is their Muslim identity. When they will speak, they will be trolled. “Khan toh bolega hi, Muslim jo hai.” “Muslim stars sab Modi se nafrat karte hain.”
    It won’t make any difference on this particular issue because they are themselves Muslims.

    And thirdly, in 2015, when they did try to speak out, you know what happened with them.

    So, it is better to focus on work rather than showing herogiri in real life.

    They are over 50. They have seen every phase in life. They would prefer peace of mind rather than creating a storm in the media with their statements.

    If they will speak, it will benefit only the media and some politicians and nobody else. And it will severely damage their films’ business.

    We must not forget that we live in a country where the CM of a state openly brokers a deal worth crores between a right wing sena and a film producer to stop the sena from sabotaging the film’s release. Trust me, the Khans (or anybody for that matter) do not want to mess with the current regime in these times of hatred and extremism which is in the trend around the world.

    • Also, in the West, if a celebrity raises his/her voice, then he/she will not be troubled for doing that. No matter what, their freedom of expression will be protected. Their films will not be boycotted or sabotaged.

      Besides, if the Khans speak, it also creates a law and order situation and endangers safety of movie goers and cinema hall owners.

  4. While the intent of this opinion piece is to be opinionated, I feel that the writer is feeling the pinch of the desperate times that our country is going through. While the transition is unmissable – in good ways and bad – it is dividing the country. It is a systematic decimation of freedom of life and speech. The binary formula may be reaping dividends today, but it has been in the works for long. What Congress has managed to do is keep a country as diverse as India together by practicing moderation and following the constitution. In contrast, from the time of UPA 2, RSS-BJP has been readying the nation to treating pluralism as a curse. They managed to do so seamlessly due to Congress’ lack of understanding of the ground reality or their absolute powerlessness to alter it. BJP played out Chris Gaylesque T20 innings time and time again since 2012, while Congress remained the purists resisting the change in status quo. BJP proves how social media is best used (or misused) to create a divide among people and politicize practically everything under the sun. Anupam Khers, Kangana Ranauts, and Payal Rohatgis are the social media mercenaries as are the Arnab Goswamis and his kind on mainstream media. How quickly the social fabric of our nation got eroded! Goes on to prove that Ambedkar’s India was an utopia after all. The human instincts are hard coded to be jealous, greedy, and competitive. The constitution can only do as much as show the way for cohabitation, but can’t tame instincts. If you really believe that the Khans have the power to make people think about the malice of the society, you’re deluded. Modi is now way bigger. The same desperation with which you write this piece makes me think that the only way we’ll ever have peace again is if Noah’s Arc sets sail.

  5. I’m from the US and happened upon this article by chance. My two cents…you’re very naive. Try putting yourself at the level of these stars taking political stances or making political statements that are bound to bite them in the rear or worse, place them and their families in danger. I’d keep my mouth shut too out of love of and concern for family if nothing else. These are intelligent men and from everything I’ve read true devotees of their religion…to impugn their character is cheap. Your weak attempt to coerce them is ill conceived. I’d keep my mouth shut too out of love of and concern for family if nothing else.
    I can’t stomach the politically minded ‘stars’ in my country or the slobbering idiots who can’t think for themselves and hang on every word as if stardom was the epitome of intelligence. Think before you write inflammatory articles that only serve to fan the fires…this type of journalism doesn’t help your cause, it only fosters even greater intolerance. Look at what’s happening in the US.

  6. Iam astounded.. Dis is 2019.. n d commenters u guys must b well educated,yet ur high on intolerance!!..gosh!!.. d speaker gave insights in2 hr /his observations.. if Dr ws an article justifying UA intolerance 2wards d minorities u must’ve been going Gaga ovr d article n d writer.. y r u al justifying rather dan accepting ua hate 2wards muslims??

    • What should they get tired of? Telling the uncomfortable truths? If you find it difficult to digest, why don’t you keep yourself limited to ToI, which has zero archival value apart from being the hypocrites of the very highest order?

  7. Expecting any opinion from these so called Muslim celebrities is like banging one’s head against a wall.Had they been Muslim at heart,they would not have remained cocooned in their comfort zone. They have absolved themselves of being Muslims. So writing about these people to raise their voice is not done as they are not going to oblige nation’s collective but greatly smothered conscience to go against the increasingly hatred filled mainstream. The poison of hatred has permeated so much in our society that rightly we may raise voice against perceived injustice but do any one care about those whose rights and voice have been systematically trumpled upon and weaned away. A tall order to expect but a valiant effort to keep on demolishing the hatred edifice. Forget about anyone not joining in as their joining is not going to add any value, but diminish our resolve.

  8. Silence is complicity. Unfortunately not all have the courage to go against the tide. We still have a lot to learn from the west. Btw nice article.

  9. This man…zainab is a chuslim fanatic…he must understand…much water has flown down the Indus since 1947…. U cant threat hindus of 2014 of direct action…and get away with porkistan!!

  10. One should introspect. Why most of people lynched are Muslims? Also to ask “who are the people who are lynching”? Most of the lynchers are group of people whose articles, like bike, cycle, buffaloes are stolen. And most of time the thieves are Muslims. So where is the problem in these statistics? Selective amnesia to blame Modi govt. The author put a black screen to look at and everything will be dark indeed.

  11. This hateful and inciting piece does not deserve any comment. But please explain – SRK said 2 different things on Nov 2 and Dec 16. With what logic you concluded that his Nov 2 view is correct?

  12. Leave others, please you speak up
    As a women and a muslim, please share your views why polygamy should not be legal. And why no law against hallala. Please don’t monkey balance using sati, dowry and female infanticide. All are illegal and punishable by law but not polygamy and hallala.

  13. Dear Writer ,do not generalise whole of India is on lynching mode based on certain incidences,mostly north of India,though we condemn it with all might. Do not paint as if everyday happening in every nook and corner of India. Meantime, do u have anything to say about kidnapping, raping, marrying of minor Hindu girls to Muslim men in Pakistan. This is happening from times unknown in thousands,with complete state institutions support and the oppressors gets legal,police support. Mullahs undertake such conversions.

  14. Any Muslim writes about liberalism, secularism is always suspect. Especially those who preach the Hindus and Christians of the world for the rights of minorities. But never utters a word at the condition of minorities in Muslim majority Islamic countries. Even in India they treat the non Muslims badly and horribly wherever they are in good numbers. So, no effect at all whatever you write because the concerns are not genuine. If really want to be heard,write about atrocities committed by Muslim fanatics also.

  15. What kind of bullying is this?

    How is the writer doing anything different from forcing people to chant Jai Shri Ram?

    Khans will speak when they want.

    You speak when you want.

  16. Sometime bashing Rahul Gandhi,sometimes bashing Dhoni and now Khans ,it became a most commonly loved trend without any reasoning .The writer is praising Anupam Kher Paresh Rawal,Kangana ,Payal Rohatgi for their dedicated flattery toward Modi ji and their utmost sincerity in supporting with full venom the hatred mongering game .Alas The Print also lost its basic principles and integrity now encourages bashing articles written with prejudice Khans are silent .Because whenever Aamir Khan,ShahRukhKhan spoke they faced all sorts of attacks verbal and protests in front of their homes and at theaters and then none came out to write in their defence or to condemn such attacks .Why didnt the write dare to ask intellectual Prasoon Joshi who not only wrote a song in Modi’s praise but he condemns these protests or those raising voice against atrocities ?If the writer is neutral he should have condemned Anupam Kher Kangana and Payal Rohatagi who got limelight only because of her the most stupid videos .But No ,no one will do that .Every one is bashing upright persons .When they are in trouble because of their courageous ,honest stand against wrong doings ,no one supports them .Unfortunately well known persons from Bollywood either kept silent or criticised them .

  17. The price that they may have to pay is just too high. Their films will be banned, shows will be vandalized, families threatened and they may be attacked physically.
    Unfair to expect them to be real-life heroes under such circumstances.

    If I put myself in their shoes.in my little world, I wouldn’t take this chance either. I am happier doing my non-controversial charity work.

    If someone emerges as a crusader, good. But it is their choice not to be one and we need to respect that.

  18. You should write. more articles like this to ensure future success of BJP.
    Shekar Gupta knows! His contributions to BJP’s success are enormous.

  19. Know the ploy. Get Khans to speak and you know there will be reactions. That will give these designer-activists/observers a chance to write a load of articles in national and foreign media to paint majority as intolerant devils, Modi as hitler and India as sewage of hate. Hope the Khans understand that this is not an appeal out of any genuine concern for minorities by these pseudo liberals but an incitement to exploit personal gains at your expense. Ask the writer to give up mere Rs. 5 lacs for the cause and see her shy away while asking you risk the loss of 100s of crores.
    Btw, people didn’t ditch angry young man for lovable boys but embraced the new occupants of the space generously offered by the angry young man at his own choosing. Hidden fault lines in your writing are not so hidden.

  20. This is the actual problem with pseudo secular like you look at your article itself without any substance you are targeting few individual (Nityananda or Jaggi Vasudev) who may be working with millions people and may a positive impact in their life. But people like you have problem with that because you think that you guys have a birth right on everything like have self-patent of knowledge, intellect, freedom of speech exclusively how can somebody else speak. Your frustration itself gives a good reason to think that finally people who been left out and marginalized finally getting their voice heard. I don’t dislike you or disagree with your opinion but we expect that guys like should also start respecting others opinion and works in truly diverse and with honesty.

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