Gurpreet Singh: Meet the so-called angry young men of Bollywood
Indian cinema star Salman Khan’s recent praise for the prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is shocking, but shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Khan had described Modi as a "great man" during an event aimed to promote his latest film Jai Ho.
Though there is nothing unusual for stars of commercial cinema using such compliments to seek favours for promotion of films, Khan stirred a controversy by virtually exonerating Modi of any wrongdoing during an anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002. It followed the burning of a train that left over 50 Hindus died.
Hindu leaders blamed that incident on Muslim fundamentalists, whereas one commission of inquiry found that it was a plain accident caused by the passengers cooking their meals on the train.
Modi, chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, has been blamed for engineering anti-Muslim violence and continues to be barred from entering the United States.
He's the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Although he has not been convicted, the BJP government in Gujarat was clearly involved in the mass murders, according to survivors and human-rights groups.
While praising Modi, Khan said that he should not be apologetic for what happened in 2002. This has raised eyebrows of many in the Muslim community, with a section of clerics asking the people to boycott his films. Being a Muslim himself, Khan's statement has added insult to the injury.
However, Khan is not the only one in the Indian film industry to leave his fans disappointed.
In the past, Amitabh Bachchan, a veteran Bollywood star, remained a mute spectator to the violence against Sikhs in 1984, despite being born to a Sikh mother.
Not only that, he joined the then ruling Congress Party—which was involved in the anti-Sikh carnage—and got elected as a member of Parliament.
The massacre followed the assassination of then-Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Bachchan was seen standing next to the body of Gandhi as she lay in state.
He was close to the Gandhi family. Others saw him remaining quiet when angry Congress supporters were announcing provocative slogans.
Whereas Khan can rightly claim to be politically naïve, Bachchan cannot escape from his responsibility as he has seen the best of both the film industry and the political world.
Shamefully, Bachchan got elected riding on the anti-Sikh wave that gave the Congress Party a brute majority in the Parliament in the aftermath of Gandhi’s murder.
One thing that binds these two stars together is their reputation as angry young men and mighty heroes who could singlehandedly fight with many ruffians. In movie houses, they stand up like a rock in front of social evils.
Their actions in terms of what happened in 1984 and 2002 clearly contradict their images on the silver screen.
Even from a secularist standpoint, their silence serves the interests of those who have time and again tried to rip off the diverse and pluralist fabric of the Indian society in the name of faith. This has also brought the Bollywood’s secularist credentials into question.