He is right. He is seldom right, but this time, this TV anchor got it right that India’s glitterati can’t believe it’s happening to one of them. First a plea: Arthur Road prison where Aryan Khan is lodged is supposed to be very unhygienic and unsafe. Ideally all prisoners should have safe and hygienic conditions, but we know how it is.
Let the young man be at least given safe and hygienic conditions while he’s lodged in jail. Nobody disputes that Aryan got stuck in bad company. Bad company! But what was he doing hanging out with such bad company? What does he do in real life as a profession? An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. The man is 23.
In the US, most kids leave their home at 18. Many start doing menial jobs at 16. Many kids work their way through college. Aryan went to the University of Southern California, also known as USC, also known as the University of Spoilt Children. The university has a tradition of admitting and nurturing spoilt brats. Just listen to the Pakistani media.
They are saying that Shah Rukh Khan’s biggest curse is being a Muslim in Hindu India. That despite being a Muslim, he has risen so high because he’s so good. They are wrong. It is not despite but because of being Muslim that he has risen so high in India. Prejudice against minorities is rampant in all countries. But it is only in open, liberal societies like India and the US that minorities can climb high.
Then the majority takes pride in itself that it has allowed a minority to climb so high. In closed societies like Pakistan, minorities are only meant to be abducted and raped. It always bothers me that leading Muslim lights in India like Asaduddin Owaisi, Javed Ahktar and Naseeruddin Shah always seem to decry the state of Muslims in India, which is their right and even duty, but only seldom criticize Pakistan for its treatment of its minorities.
Sometimes though they ask Pakistan to lay off India. But when a potentially communal issue like this crops up, most Indian Muslims stay silent. In their glumness they seem to be complicit in Pakistan’s allegations. Pakistan portrays all Hindus as Muslim-baiters, which actually makes Hindus better citizens. And then the Aryan case is not even remotely a communal issue.
People are speculating that the BJP is making it a communal issue because of UP’s upcoming elections. But UP is on fire because of the farmers’ issue. Aryan and Shah Rukh are not going to consolidate the Hindu vote. The BJP is much more worried about the resurgence of Priyanka Gandhi in UP than any abyss that Aryan falls into.
Clearly there has been an absence of good parenting in Aryan’s case. Shah Rukh is reportedly close to the Gandhi family. When Sonia Gandhi ruled the land, if Aryan had been caught, perhaps even his name would not have come up. All of us know how Sonia protected Robert Vadra. The day Aryan was arrested, Salman Khan, historically no great friend of Shah Rukh’s, went to huddle with him.
Everyone knows that Salman is close to the prime minister. And everyone knows how close Shah Rukh is to the Mukesh Ambani family, and how close they are to the the government. Shah Rukh thus has his own pathways to the powers that be. Shah Rukh is not even critical of the prime minister. If a Muslim had to be taught a lesson, more mileage would have been gained by harassing a Javed Akhtar or Naseeruddin Shah, both of whom are openly critical of the current regime.
The Narcotics Control Bureau is getting a hiding from the glitterati. It’s so funny. Get arrested for a traffic violation in Delhi, and if an honest cop decides to write you a ticket, then scare him by saying that you know the DCP and how the little cop will get taken care of. Everyone in Delhi knows the DCP! The poor cop, confused, doesn’t write the ticket. No wonder there are no honest cops left in India.
Drive through any Indian city, and you can openly see motorists bribing cops under the peepal tree. So if all our institutions are eroded, how will the republic function? By many accounts, the NCB has been doing a professional job. But the glitterati and even politicians, to gain their own points within the minority community, are tearing into them. Everyone knows a drug culture pervades Hollywood.
Everyone knows it’s the same with Bollywood. If the Americans do something, how can we be left behind? Bollywood, like Hollywood, should get its act together. We have no control over Hollywood, but we have over Bollywood. We should allow the people who are trying to cleanse the system to let them do their job. Justice must be served in the case of Aryan. He has access to the best lawyers. He must be given a safe and hygienic environment in jail.
Anything can happen in this case. The powers that be might decide to intervene. If they do, nothing can be done about it. India has historically always been a land of those who glitter and those who do not.
(The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas)