Hindu right-wing party Shiv Sena is at it again. After smearing ink on innocuous Sudhendra Kulkarni in Mumbai, the Punjab unit of the outfit announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh per slap for anyone slapping actor Aamir Khan over his remarks on “growing intolerance” in India.
Aamir is currently in Ludhiana for the shooting of his upcoming movie, Dangal.
Rajeev Tandon, Punjab chairman, Shiv Sena, while inveighing on Khan said that “any person who will slap Aamir Khan will get Rs 1 lakh for each slap from the Shiv Sena”, adding, “We give an opportunity to the manager and employees of the hotel and also the team of his film to slap Aamir and get Rs 1 lakh from us. The courageous and patriotic persons who will slap Aamir Khan in Ludhiana will get Rs 1 lakh reward per slap from us.”
Shiv Sena is no stranger to controversies. It has, in the past, dug up cricket pitches, beaten up north and south Indians in Mumbai, thrashed couples in public parks on Valentine’s Day and smeared ink on people holding contrarian point of views. Its mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ does not mince words in excoriating its political opponents and a particular community, namely Muslims, in its daily harangue. To the extent that late Bal Thackeray once called upon people to form ‘Hindu suicide squads’ to counter ‘Islamic extremism’.
But as they say, barking dogs seldom bite. The bellicose Shiv Sena has weird, dangerous ideas but apparently nobody capable enough in its rank and file to carry them out. For instance, it has been over 14 years since 2002 when Thackeray issued a call for Hindu suicide squads, yet no one from his own ranks paid heed to him and stepped up to the plate. The Shiv Sena men apparently do not themselves have the gumption to ‘slap’ Aamir Khan, hence this public appeal.
But this time Shiv Sena seems to have crossed the ‘red-line’ by inciting violence against a person whose only crime was to express his point of view over an important issue plaguing the country. Shiv Sena knows India being a poor country where around 60 per cent people live below the poverty line and have to work hard to make both ends meet, Rs one lakh is no small amount to take the law into one’s own hands.
Consider a man who has to arrange for his sister’s dowry, who has to finance his children’s studies, who has to meet expenses of his father’s medical treatment, or the debt-ridden farmer who has to pay off his loans. Wouldn’t he consider Shiv Sena’s offer and slap Aamir Khan despite having no grudges against the latter.
Suppose he slaps Aamir for Rs one lakh and gets caught in flagrante delicto. He might be sent to jail for a few months and fined as well. But wouldn’t it be worth taking a risk for him? Shiv Sena, fully aware of a poor Indian’s insecurities and compulsions, has issued a call for inflicting violence upon Aamir Khan knowing that someone would eventually fall into its trap.
With this, the Marathi chauvinist party cuts a sorry figure and has stooped to a new low but nothing seems out of bounds for Shiv Sena. I mean what next? If this continues, that day is not far when Shiv Sena and its ilk, like ignoramus Mullahs, would offer bounties on people’s heads. Such venom in public discourse by those who are supposed to lead us is what perchance Aamir was referring to in his remarks, for holding a contrarian point of view does not make one ‘traitor’.
This ‘intolerance’ is scary and sends shivers down one’s spine. At the same time, we must not paint everybody with the same brush, for crude, uncouth Shiv Sena is not India.
How we deal with the likes of Shiv Sena will define us as a nation.