Certainly, people the world over are obsessed with the world of the rich and the famous, with its glitz and glamour. It seems incredibly alluring, and that is understandable to some extent – it is but human to covet what you cannot have, or what seems out of reach. But sometimes, it takes on ridiculous proportions, like it has in India, where Bollywood is the be-all and end-all of everything. And it’s not just about the celebrities themselves. It’s about Madhuri Dixit’s secretary, Salman Khan’s bodyguard, Yash Chopra’s makeup artist, somebody’s housekeeper, somebody else’s toilet cleaner, you get the picture. The sordid tales of the daily life of a domestic helper to the stars is tabloid fodder, too. And it only gets worse.
Apart from celebrities feeding our public consciousness all the livelong day, they also make public nuisances of themselves. They then join forces with this wonderful species I call Indicus Politicianus (and the words ‘anus’ and ‘politician’ go together perfectly) to form some sort of awful, corrupt, money-leeching, authority-flouting, make-your-own-rules because there-ARE-no-RULES superentity, kind of like the evil version of Captain Planet that liked to dump sewage and pollute the world.
Counterintuitively, this sort of behaviour will get you treated like royalty, waited on on hand and foot, and you will be the Jack Dawson of the Indian Streets.
Criminal convictions? What on earth are those? If you are a member of parliament or the Legislative Assembly, you don’t have to follow the letter of the law, you are judge, jury and executioner. Whatever remaining ‘work’ needs to be done ‘legally’ will manage to slant itself to support you.
Take these two, for instance:
“…………Kshitij Thakur, an MLA from the Bahujan Vikas Party..” “…Ram Kadam of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena” assaulted a policeman last week. Why? The man pulled their car over because they were speeding. How dare he, no?
A line I have heard uttered frequently is ‘pata hai main kaun hoon?’ . Alternatively, ‘pata hai mera baap kaun hai?’ – Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is?
The functioning rule here is if you or your father are rich and/or famous, connected to Bollywood, politics, cricket and or the murky filth surrounding them, you can do whatever you damn well please. Sadly, it is one that is all too true. Calling them bedfellows would be an understatement, because they might as well have been having a long, full-blown orgy. (Maybe they were right when they said pigs have the longest orgasms.)
Back to the story of the policeman. Said politicians were driving down the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, above the speed limit. A policeman does his duty and pulls them over. He gets beaten up, fifteen people to one, for his trouble.
After a hue and cry is raised, an investigation ensued. The investigation helped bring the guilty party to book!
Except it didn’t.
“Home Minister RR Patil said early inquiries suggest Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryavanshi used inappropriate language against..” the two MLAs mentioned earlier. What ‘inappropriate language’ may be is anybody’s guess, of course. Obviously, any form of ‘inappropriate language’ condones physical violence, where a person is outnumbered by fourteen to one.
State legislators rallied behind the lovely set of bullies, and called for ACTION against the COP. While the two assaulters were arrested, they were immediately released on bail.
In what seems a truly completely logical conclusion to all of this, the policeman in question, Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryawanshi, was suspended from duty until further notice, while the assaulters were made to pay Rs. 15,000 apiece (pocket change in the world of politics) and were ‘not required to be present for court proceedings.’
But that case is absolutely minuscule compared to what is currently gripping the nation: the trials and tribulations of Sanjay Dutt.
First, a little background for the uninitiated – it was twenty years (and two weeks) ago today.
Black Friday – Friday, 12th March, 1993.
Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
13 coordinated bomb explosions ripped through Mumbai all day, killing upwards of 250 people and injuring 700. (Those are only the official figures, the actual number of fatalities must certainly have been even higher.) You can read more about the blasts here.
NDTV have an interactive timeline of the blasts here.
Now in the midst of the hullaballoo, Mr. Dutt here was found to be in possession of firearms. Illegally so. And we’re not just talking a pistol, which could have been for self-defense, or perhaps a revolver, or some such thing (while I do not at all condone keeping illegal firearms, or really, any firearms at all, it is perhaps a little less ludicrous for someone to have a small Beretta in their personal possession than it is an AK-56.)
That batch of firearms was found to be from the same consignment as those used in the attacks. In April, 1993, Dutt was convicted under TADA, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act and sentenced to ‘six years’ rigorous imprisonment’, of which he served a massive, massive 25%. He was out of prison in 18 months.
Extensive campaigning by his father, eminent actor and later politician (see how often those two things come up together?), Sunil Dutt, who by all accounts was a gem of a person with an exemplary record, led, in 2006, to Dutt Jnr being let off under TADA, but being charged under the Arms act alone. Only coincidentally, of course, his father was a Member of Parliament at the time.
A few short one-month stints in prison later, he was out and intending to contest elections. However, this was not to be – the Supreme Court refused to suspend his 2007 conviction under the Arms Act.
Cut to the present day. 26th March, 2013. Sanjay Dutt’s sentence was upheld. He has 4 weeks to surrender (which I’m quite sure is 4 weeks longer than any other accused does).
Incidentally, a woman named Zaibunissa Qazi, who did exactly the same thing Dutt did – that is, store firearms for suspicious parties, was convicted under TADA. That sentence, unlike Dutt’s, was not rescinded, withdrawn or appealed, which is truly the way it should be! Considering everybody else who stored arms was convicted under TADA, why was Sanjay Dutt let off with only a conviction under the arms act?
In spite of handcuffs transforming themselves into a slap on the wrist, our lovely film fraternity, Bollywood, has ‘come out in support of Sanju’. He is ‘not a criminal, was in the wrong place at the wrong time’. ‘This will shatter him’. ‘Poor man’.
Yeah, poor criminal, committing a crime. My heart bleeds for the fact that he was caught. Truly.
“Director Kunal Kohli too batted for Sanjay Dutt, saying, “The ’93 blast case should not be made about Sanjay Dutt. The Real planners are sitting safely in Pakistan” – Does that mean, Mr. Kohli, that those who have aided and abetted said ‘real planners’ must not be subject to the course of the law?
Others have discussed him being a ‘broken man’ and not knowing if he ‘will ever be able to recover from this’. Recover from committing a crime?! Are we being absolutely serious here? And if we are going to go the emotional appeal route, can not the mother, father, brother, sister, wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend, what have you, simply shed a few tears on a television screen and be done with it?
Dutt’s latest support has come in the form of a certain Justice Markandey Katju, who has outlined these incredibly astute reasons as to why he believes Dutt should be granted a pardon. Among them : Dutt’s difficulty at securing a bank loan (much like a majority of our population, who, unlike Dutt, were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths), his ‘difficulty with regard to foreign travel for film shoots’ (??!) and the ‘length of the trial’.
The length of the trial has to do with the fact that our legal system is just that slow, something you would think that Justice Katju, of all people, would be well aware of. Evidently not.
He also says Dutt has ‘two small children’. Surely a lot of victims of the blasts, which, let’s face it, was a crime Dutt was involved in, directly or indirectly, had children themselves? What about the children who grew up without their fathers and mothers?
Katju also mentions that Dutt’s parents, famous actors Sunil Dutt and Nargis, were exemplary citizens who did much for India and Indians. What on earth do their good deeds have to do with their son’s criminal activity, and should said good deeds preclude punishment for Dutt, and why? I now have a burning curiosity as to what Jack the Ripper’s parents did. Maybe he deserved a pardon, too?
Others describe Dutt as a ‘victim of circumstance’, a man who lost his mother, his wife, and then, a decade ago, his father. While losing a loved one, nay, several loved ones, must certainly be incredibly painful, he was a) an adult, and b) it is absolutely not something that can be used to explain away voluntary criminal activity.
Another famous man lost his mum, a woman he was very close to, at the tender age of 14. But instead of turning into a wreck, the man became a superstar on his own merit at the tender age of 16. He then lost his best friend and songwriting partner, and later the love of his life. He still remains a genius, and a grounded, conscientious, contributing member of civilised society, who has not once been involved in anything remotely criminal. A man who wrote about love, war, peace, loneliness, life, everything under the sun. A man who wrote songs like this for the woman he loved.
So why the public outcry, the pity, the sadness, the appeal for somebody who was born privileged and chose to fritter away their opportunities and good fortune on drugs and crime? Because he played a character who interacted with, incidentally, a true politician, one who actually cared about the country, back in the days when we had those – Gandhi?
While I agree one is innocent until proven guilty, in a country where, if you are or know the right people, you cannot even be proven guilty in the first place, what water does that even hold?
Why should he have two famous politicians now travelling the country, going from pillar to post, campaigning for ‘mercy’ for him, and on what grounds does he deserve any mercy whatsoever? Sympathy for the Devil?
Politics and Bollywood are strange bedfellows indeed, but in the end, while it may be their orgy, it’s the country that’s getting fucked.
Lage Raho indeed.