By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Mahesh Bhatt has just returned from Delhi after meeting the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Arjun Singh, and the Union Minister of Home Affairs, Shivraj V Patil alongwith Teesta Setalvad and Muslim organisations from all over India.
The meeting point
"It was a two-day seminar where Ulemas raised the point of the winds of Islamo-phobia blowing in this country. Post the bomb blast scenario, there is no denying that amongst the Muslim community, there is a sense of persecution where they are being judged and victimised. The fear has grown to large proportions and this was a way of scaling it down through mutual discussion and consensus," informs Bhatt.
"I was the only person from the film fraternity. The top Ulemas of India called me as I have been raising voices for them. The Jamiyat-e-Ulema-e-Hind organised the seminar and it was attended by all the top heads of various sects including the Bohra community."
Adds a disturbed Bhatt, "Post the Mumbai bomb blasts, there is a growing concern that Muslims are being put in the dock and Islam is being penalised.
The message coming to the nation, coming on the heels of what happened to Aamir with Fanaa and Shah Rukh with Pepsi is that 'if you are a star and you happen to be a Muslim you better watch your step.'
The chances are, that the right-wing forces will target Muslim stars to get political brownie points. There is an urgent need for government heads at the highest level to meet along with the PM and Home and External Affairs departments to sort it out."
Today Uma Bharati and her party, The Bhartiya Janshakti Party is targetting Shah Rukh Khan. Commenting on the presence of pesticides in soft drinks controversy, Khan reportedly asked if anyone has tested if mother's milk was pesticide free - a comment that has the Bhartiya Janshakti Party workers baying for his blood.
Says Bhatt, "Shah Rukh is not a communal person. We can't sit on judgement on a remark he made because we don't know in what context he made it and what the exact words were. That's his personal opinion and it is a free society where one is allowed to make express individual opinions.
Every-thing is a personal opinion. By sheer violence and suing brute force, you can't force your ideologies down someone's throat. If Shah Rukh and Aamir aren't convinced about the issues involved, nobody has the rights to impose their opinions on them!"
Bhatt's take on the Cola issue? "I am against dehydration of the farmers lands by the cola companies and had agitated with Sandeep Pande in UP against them but that again is my personal opinion."
When asked why he was speaking up on behalf of the minority, Bhatt quizzes, "If I don't, who else will? Whether you're a Muslim or Hindu, if you hurt any one of them, you hurt me. Anyone who divided us on religious lines is an enemy of India. Whether it was the Hindus in Kashmir in 1993-94 or the Muslims of today I will always stand up for those who are being persecuted. I'm not taking any sides - the only side I am on is India's."
SRK should ignore
Has he tried contacting Shah Rukh on this? "No. Being an intelligent person, I don't think he's taking it seriously. Uma Bharati is a struggling politician. He should ignore these things."
However, there was a strange silence coming from people in the film industry. When we asked people like Feroz Khan, Salim Khan, Zayed Khan, Irrfan Khan, Aziz Mirza and Emraan Hashmi, they preferred not to comment. The issue is sensitive and maybe they fear a backlash from fundamentalist forces.
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