A T-shirt in black and white horizontal stripes with ‘Being Human’ inscribed on it is doing the rounds on social media, reminding one of a jail costume and what it would be like ‘Being Salman’ at this point of time.
The 2002 hit-and-run case by Salman Khan hit the headlines of the newspapers and tabloids just the way his car hit the homeless people sleeping on the Mumbai road pavement 13 years ago. As expected, the driver was framed as the scapegoat, drawing an uncanny parallel with the bestseller ‘The White Tiger’ whose protagonist was a chauffeur bribed with a glowing future for his family in return for his freedom. But at this point, fiction parts ways with reality.
After 13 years and a slew of ‘Being Human’ initiatives by one of the most renowned Khans of the country, Salman Khan is convicted of culpable homicide by the Mumbai Sessions court.
The film fraternity and Salman’s fan base has responded with overwhelming support and sympathy for the famous actor, who has played memorable roles in movies like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Hum Dil Chuke Sanam and recent ones like Dabangg and Kick. There are also those who are happy to see the rich perpetrator punished. And those who don’t know what to make of all this, are merely ignoring this piece of news.
Still some others are wondering is it at all possible not to take sides? A die-hard Salman fan would hunt for all sorts of reasons to support him while an indifferent or an anti-Salman person might have other views. Well, the thing is- it doesn’t matter.
A drunk man drives a car at night. One Rule Broken. He mows down a street sleeper. Another Rule Down. The case continues for 13 years. Meanwhile, the perpetrator tries to burnish his image and perhaps his conscience as well, by founding an NGO and advocating humanity. The result comes out and it is 5 years’ imprisonment. It is as much as Mr. Khan could manage with his influence and efforts in the face of glaring evidence that spoke against him. It seems that the Dabangg actor is suddenly at the receiving end of a dabangg court ruling and has taken a sound ‘kick’.
One can blame the Bollywood people for being elitists and supporting their fellow actor irrespective of the crime he has committed, but then what else is family for (the Bolly family I mean), if not for ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’? While others will feel that social work is a fitting repentance for a crime, some others will take advantage of the actor’s celebrity status and glory in his hard days.
What with 5 years in jail, which is actually quite less than the 10 years that homicide would have warranted, there would probably be an appeal in the High Court. After all, about 250 crores worth of films and ad deals are riding on Salman.
The conviction doesn’t eclipse the fact that justice delayed is justice denied; the fact that there are 40 lakh cases pending in the high courts, some as old as independent India itself; the fact that a popular actor hogs the limelight for a crime he commits but the victim is lost in the shadows; and the fact that it wouldn’t help the dead man much whether Salman is punished or not. Singer Abhijeet tweeted that the homeless pavement sleeper brought his death upon himself. Agreed. But it still doesn’t give someone the right to drive his/her car on the pavement, whoever that someone may be.
Bottomline: drunk driving will not be accepted. However, the question arises- have all such cases been dealt with the same severity as this? Perhaps Salman’s celebrity status exacerbated his conviction since many more get away with more heinous and cold-blooded crimes. Be that as it may, the judiciary must be lauded for staying unfazed in the face of the enormous support and fan following of the actor and delivering a just verdict.
The questions to be pondered upon are many- what is the status of justice today? Are the pavements free of sleepers? Have the cases been solved faster? We will soon find that the answers to all the above questions is a deadening no. The cases still take ages to be solved in India which, being a litigious country, has extensive procedures for judicial assignments. As for the agenda of development, the conditions haven’t changed either. The problems are the same as they were 13 years ago.
The fact to be pondered upon is not whether the punishment was merited; it is that so much publicity was unwarranted. There are many more issues and causes within this verdict that require more attention than someone being convicted for a crime he committed.