January 18, 2017 8:49:27 pm
There is this nagging sense of deja vu, but to be honest no one was surprised by Salman Khan’s acquittal in Arms Act case. Neither was I. However, I am disappointed. It confirms my lack of faith in the system, because regardless of the crimes this man has committed, he will be exonerated. It throws me off a bit since it’s a significant reminder of how crippled and paralysed the system can get when it locks its horns with a celebrity who is notorious, wealthy and powerful.
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But declaring the powerful “guilty” by a court has almost never been the tradition in India, so why must we be aberrant now? Back in 1998, during the shooting of Hum Saath Saath Hain, Khan had also ended up shooting antelopes (protected under the Wildlife Protection Act) in two isolated incidents. In 2016, he was — you guessed it — acquitted for both the antelope poaching cases through a verdict passed by Rajasthan High Court. Interestingly, that verdict reversed the decision passed earlier that had pronounced him guilty of the crimes, sentencing him to prison.
The most unhinging verdict relating to Khan, however, was passed in 2015 in he 13-year-old hit-and-run case where Khan was declared “not guilty” for running his Land Cruiser over five homeless people who were sleeping on a pavement in Mumbai, leaving several injured and one dead. For more than a decade, the case vacillated inconclusively with the court eventually announcing that prosecution was unable to provide evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” that Khan was under the influence of alcohol and driving the car. When Khan was finally acquitted, he broke down — and so did Twitter.
There were many who took to the social media to convey that they were critical of the court’s decision, but there were many more who sided with Khan and celebrated the outcome – many of whom were film stars, including Anupam Kher who tweeted, “So happy that @BeingSalmanKhan is acquitted of all charges. Truth Prevails. Even if it takes 13 long years.:)”
Salman Khan has worked hard at sculpting his identity – he presents himself as an ordinary human being who is attuned to the rawness and sensitivity of “being human”. He has presented himself as the ‘bhai’ with a big heart, embodying the archetypal characteristics of a hero, bashing up the bad guys on the cinematic screen, while in real life doing humanitarian good.
Through his films, he has been able to build an unusually large, frenzied crowd of loyalists who worship him. Khan has mentored a string of young film icons, thereby accumulating an immeasurable degree of love, admiration and respect from many in the industry as well. When it comes to him, Khan controls the narrative and steers it. And while the narrative may be occasionally marred by appalling crimes that he “may” have committed, at the end of the day, he always emerges victorious, retaining his larger-than-life image, unsullied and intact.
And that’s disconcerting, because it leaves you disillusioned about the authority the judicial system commands. It also establishes an alarming fact: no matter what you do, if you’re part of the industry, you can get away with murder. As a colleague of mine aptly summarised the situation, “It’s Salman Khan. He has the money. He is powerful. That’s a fact and because of that, nothing is ever going to change.”
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