‘Hang Ujjal Dosanjh for treason before charging Aamir Khan with sedition’
Aamir’s only offence is one of being a true patriot. His critics are wrong in targeting him. I should be the one charged with treason for being a fugitive from the battles against fanaticism, caste, corruption and poverty.
Aamir Khan at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in New Delhi on Nov 23rd 2015. Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi
Some people were critical of Aamir’s sharing of his innermost fears for India, the country of his birth, love and life; a country or the critics he has no intention of fleeing. Aamir shared his pain and anxiety about the “disquiet…despondency” abroad the land of India. For that he has been charged with sedition. It is shocking that in today’s Indian democracy, an Indian – be it Aamir, Shah Rukh or Girish Karnad – can’t freely discuss their feelings and ideas without being threatened bodily harm and death, told to leave the country or charged with sedition.
No Indian – Modi, Aamir or any other – needs to prove his/her patriotism. Being concerned about the state of peace and harmony in India isn’t unpatriotic. Sharing his wife’s intimate fears and insecurities about their child’s future can’t be treasonous. I know thousands, if not millions, of Indian families talk daily about leaving or at least sending their children away from India for better economic opportunities or for a better quality of life-as they say. Indians are omnipresent in the world. For various reasons they have been leaving India for centuries. I admire the billion plus Indians who have stayed and continue to fight for a better India. Aamir is one of those billion plus who have no intention of leaving; come hell or high water they are there to stay.
That is why the hue and cry about Aamir’s important but less than earth shaking expression of the anxieties and insecurities felt by many Indians is beyond comprehension. Sharing one’s soul’s angst with the people of one’s country shouldn’t be a capital offence. I wish the leaders of India and the so called “guardians of patriotism” more often and honestly shared their truths and fears with Indians. If they genuinely did so, India and the world of Indians will be a better place than the exceedingly corrupt polity and society bedevilled by poverty, caste, and religious tensions. In the current malaise engulfing India, the top leadership, of all major political parties, has been silent and largely missing in action except to score political points against each other. When they do speak, they tend to denigrate as did Home Minister Rajnath Singh when he invoked the iconic Dr. Ambedkar to take a swipe at Aamir arguing “Dr. Ambedkar never said he will leave India”. Otherwise a deafening silence reigns even in the face of gruesome Dalit murders, the Dadri lynching and the killing of rationalists.
In such frightening silence, the screaming anguish emanating from Aamir’s interview was a breath of fresh air; it should have prompted some serious soul searching in India; instead, charges of sedition were slapped against him. Yes, sedition, while on the other hand, the governments of all stripes have been lionising forever the NRIs- usually Non Resident Indians – the Not Returning Indians – except to visit the motherland every now and then. Though India hasn’t left most of us – certainly it hasn’t left me – we have left India. Most of us have relinquished our Indian citizenship. We have become citizens of the lands where we live. We have abandoned India. Legally we have turned our backs on it. Where is the Indian rebuke for us? Why don’t Aamir’s critics turn their Twitter missiles and rhetorical bombs upon us?
In fact India does the opposite for the NRIs. It showers praise upon us which I dare say we like. In fact in the year 2000 the people of India celebrated me as the first ‘son of the soil’ for achieving the high office of the premier of the province of British Columbia – the first Indian to do so anywhere in the western world. The Vajpayee government even bestowed upon me the inaugural Pravasi Bharatiya Award in 2003.
And I had left India in 1964 while millions of others chose to stay and fight the billion battles. I fled. Aamir didn’t. I am your culprit. He is not. I am the one that should be charged with betraying India and the legacy of my own ancestors who fought valiantly like millions of others to free India from the British. I must be charged not just with sedition but more. The charge of sedition is meant to punish only those simply encouraging disaffection/disobedience against the government of the day. Heck, I didn’t even do that, though I should have because no government is the country, and as a Gandhian, it is a fundamental tenet of my belief to be permanently seditious against all bad governments.
Aamir’s only offence is one of being a true patriot. His critics are wrong in targeting him. I should be the one charged with treason for being a fugitive from the battles against fanaticism, caste, corruption and poverty. I say: hang Ujjal Dosanjh for treason before charging Aamir with sedition!
Ujjal Dosanjh is former Premier of British Columbia, and former Canadian Minister of Health. Views expressed are personal.