Empathising with Aamir's fears

Empathising with Aamir's fears

In the backdrop of the incident of Aamir Khan’s comment and the reaction it attracted, I would say that I empathise with Khan for his fears of having to face intolerance in the country – although I cannot say whether Khan was right or wrong in his manner of expression.

The incident brings to mind the recent Tipu Sultan Jayanti, which left behind the bitterness of anger expressed against glorifying ‘a Muslim ruler intolerant of Hindus’. The comments have naturally been in support of and against the move of the State government, and Tipu too.

A ruler will do as he feels is best for his kingdom, regardless of his religion, was what many people felt, but insisted that most reactionaries are ignorant about the works of the people they comment on.

That there have been umpteen cases of rulers from other religions taking the same path as Tipu is accused of having taken, but their acts are seen with far greater regard, was a common comment heard.

After Aamir Khan responded to all that the reactionaries had to say to his words, I agree that he might have phrased his feelings wrongly. Many of us react to the news, exclaiming, “What has happened to this country? How will our children or grandchildren survive in this society amidst this gore?”

Yet, to insist that there is nothing to fear about the condition of our country, I will say, shows an attitude of a frog in the well. As always, not everybody who is a Hindu has made this statement, which helps retain hope about our country.

But, when a male Hindu says Khan has made an exaggerated statement, there is a desire to tell him that a person needs to be in the shoes of the speaker to understand his words.

I say this as a woman who is a Hindu. While I belong to the ‘hurt’ majority community, in the words of the reactionary groups, I also have to take additional care about what I wear where, when and how I go where, among others.

While Khan belongs to religious minority, I belong to gender minority, and certainly empathise with him for his feelings of insecurity in the company of the more powerful majority.

I was raised as only an individual, and not a woman who is conscious of this fact, which is why, advice to swim not against but with the tide of the male majority has proven irksome. I have been called a rebel for refusing to follow the rules set by a patriarchal society.

A mother’s fear
People point out that a person from a minority community is still safe in India, but it seems odd that Khan’s statement did not draw sympathy for a mother’s fear for the safety of her child. His words also did seem to make people ask why a Hindu lady should feel so in this country.

As the word intolerance draws all sorts of reactions and definitions – and as Khan is advised to instil patriotism in his wife – the words of the great rationalist and nationalist, Dr H Narasimhaiah, come to mind.

His work, ‘Thereda Mana’ (Open Mind), has his comment on how the word ‘secularism’ has been greatly misunderstood, misused and also mistaken for religious tolerance.

It reminds the reader that our country is secular only on paper, as religion is an issue raised in practically every field that our society, and even the law, deals with.

His ‘hidden’ insistence on the need to understand a word before you use it might seem very basic or simple. It will probably draw an argument that our country has always been tolerant – as the current incident has been drawing.

The prominence given to Khan’s religion, instead of the long list and varieties of crime going on in front of us, again speaks of secularism missing in our society and its way of thinking, in most cases at least.

The report on Khan signing off with Tagore’s words, ‘Where the mind is without fear...’, reminded me of school days, for two reasons.

One, it was a time when a native of Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka was asked how the district housed so many Muslims and Christians – along with Hindus – without any case of clash.

Two, the Kannada translation of Tagore’s poem, ‘Elli Mana Kalukirado’, was a prayer, all through the days of high school. Tagore’s dream of such a land and his prayer remain.

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