INDIA: Of tolerant mobs, patriotic judiciary and seditious Aamir Khan

Avinash Pandey

With two cases of sedition, one police complaint filed against him in three Indian states, and mobs picketing in front of his house in another, Aamir Khan must be a worried man. More so for the fact that the first of these cases is listed for hearing on 1 December 2015 in Kanpur, far away from his house in Mumbai.

The only thing is, Aamir Khan has not engaged in any criminal activity. Being a superstar with a fan following of millions, subjecting him to 24 hour media scrutiny, makes it difficult to do so in any case. And then, the electronic media in India is hardly less than paparazzi.

All Mr. Khan has done to invite the wrath of so many people across the country, was making a statement in a freewheeling conversation during the Ramnath Goenka Awards ceremony, the most prestigious media awards in India. Mr. Khan might not have realized it then, but he seemed hell bent on inviting the wrath of the ever so tolerant and patriotic mob. Why else would he talk of the times that are not particularly good for journalism when even the media is not speaking out? Why else would he then add fuel to the self righteous anger of the mob by supporting the right of numerous writers who returned their awards in protest against growing intolerance and fanatical violence in India?

He did this and more in front of the Union Minister who had ‘tolerantly’ rubbished those protests as a ‘manufactured revolt’, unlike his cabinet colleague Gen (retd) V. K. Singh who had called the same an “unnecessary creation of very imaginative minds who are being paid with a lot of money”. He also shared the concerns of his wife Kiran Rao, a celebrated filmmaker:

“When I sit at home and talk to Kiran, and Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India, and for the first time Kiran says, should we move out of India, that is a disastrous and a very big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child, she feels scared to open the newspapers every day. That does indicate there is a sense of growing disquiet. One part of it is alarm, the other part is you feel depressed, you feel low, you feel ‘why is this happening?”

Mr. Khan and his wife are perfectly right in being worried; any conscientious citizen of India would be in the aftermath of the killings of writers, death threats to others, mob lynchings over rumours of eating beef, and what not. Unfortunately however, Mr. Khan does not seem to have learnt any lessons from the various writers, artists and others who have crossed the path of the new government.

He talked about what is on everyone’s mind, and resultantly is being hounded the same way countless others have been after the new regime took over. There has been a lot of debate on increasing intolerance, as well as active resistance against it, and every conscientious citizen of India can only be on the side of such resistance. The hounding must worry not only him but all those who believe in the idea of India being a republic based on justice and rule of law.

The hounding, however, should not be the only thing to worry us. The attacks on Aamir Khan were expected, more so from openly fanatical mobs prodded by their political handlers to hound dissenters. What should be worrying us far more, are the sedition cases and the police complaints slapped on him across India. Our judiciary is not a militant organ of a politico religious ideology—it cannot and must not support mobs hounding any person for expressing his views. It should thus worry us that the judiciary has time and again let itself been abused by politically motivated groups to hound people, despite the Supreme Court of India’s clear proclamation on this matter.

In a judgement passed on 3 February 2011, in the Arup Bhuyan v. State of Assam case (Cr.A.No.889/2007) the Court held that, ‘mere membership of a banned organization will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence’. The court held the same when granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen.

View the sedition charges slapped on Mr. Khan for merely voicing his concerns over incidents of growing violence in the light of the 2011 judgment, and the irony is obvious. Add to that the fact that not even ordinary criminal charges were filed against the mob that attacked his house in Mumbai, the ministers who underlined that the Dadri lynch mob did not ‘even touch the 17-year-old daughter of the victim’, the Members of Parliament that routinely threaten marginalised communities, and the delinquency of the judiciary becomes unacceptable.

That, unfortunately, is not the end of the story. There is no dearth of studies establishing how difficult it is for ordinary Indian citizens to get their genuine grievances registered in police stations. Additionally, ample research has revealed how the country’s police bring down crime rates by simply not registering complaints. The status of case disposal within the judiciary meanwhile, stood at 26,851,766 cases pending in subordinate courts in March 2012, according to the Minister of Law. What is thus more criminal than accepting frivolous charges to hound a person and deny him/her the freedom of speech, when countless Indians wait for justice?

Aamir Khan’s hounding has brought the delinquency engrained in the justice system of India back to the fore. The only way to bring justice to people, and also to bring fanatic, criminal people to justice, is have a judiciary that works for the rule of law.

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About the Author: Mr. Avinash Pandey, alias Samar is Programme Coordinator, Right to Food Programme, AHRC. He can be contacted at

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-061-2015
Countries : India,
Issues : Administration of justice, Democracy, Freedom of expression, Institutional reform, Judicial system, Legislation,