All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others: George Orwell.
There is a chilling message the powers that be are sending out to the minorities in India: You are on watch, and despite what you do or who you are — you might be Shah Rukh Khan for all we care — you are a lesser animal since your name is ‘Khan’.
In the case of Aryan Khan’s arrest, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has decided to oppose granting him bail as a face-saving measure.
A few days ago, NCP leader Nawab Malik alleged that the NCB used the services of two private persons, one with links with the BJP and the other with a criminal record, as arrests were being carried of superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan in connection with a drug raid on a cruise ship.
So who are these independent witnesses in this controversial case? The usual suspects. A thug with criminal antecedents and an alleged BJP member, Manish Bhanushali. The self-styled detective Kiran Gosavi who shared a viral selfie with Aryan Khan is a wanted accused in a 2018 cheating case registered with Pune City Police. Any state and underbelly nexus here?
The point is that the NCB has not covered itself up in glory in the past few years with so-called “drug busts”, and that the NCB now is desperately trying to wash its hands off accusations of acting as a ‘propaganda arm’ of the establishment.
It is alleged that an agency tasked with combating drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act is not only going after Bollywood actors who could/could not be consuming drugs personally, but is now engaging and encouraging thugs, conmen and BJP party men to mount on investigations — read motivated investigations. After burning Rhea Chakraborty at the stake last year, they are now a powerful propaganda arm of the government. Rhea could not have murdered Sushant, but then since we are receiving flak for migrants on the road, let’s plot a drug angle that will keep the junta glued to their TV sets. All that will resonate on TV for months will be Rhea, drugs, sex, justice for Sushant Singh Rajput. What an idea sir, jee!
Today, allegedly, the NCB has the power to arrest people on suspicion of running a possible global drug cartel if they don’t like your name and today God forbid if your name happens to be Khan, they are capable of doing a Pehlu Khan on you. So what if you are Shah Rukh Khan? Even better perhaps, as it takes the focus away from burning issues such as the 3000 kg Mundra drug haul case or the Lakhimpur Kheri case.
Shouldn’t the attention be focused on these real cases, rather than manufactured ones?
That a Union minister’s son allegedly mowed down eight people in Lakhimpur Kheri, and chose to abscond is a telling sign on how fascism has entered every aspect of our lives where none are being spared.
Yellow journalists would have continued with the dehumanisation of Aryan Khan, primetime government-friendly channels would have continued with the ‘Muslims are bad’ debates if the Supreme Court would not have asked them for accountability.
The disclosures of Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data scientist who hit the headlines across the world earlier this week as ‘the Facebook whistleblower’, include multiple references to the promotion of divisions and ethnic violence in India.
Her main claims on Facebook’s work in India are that pages associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) promoted “fear mongering, anti-Muslim narratives, [and] that a lack of Indian language editors led to unchecked hate speech here on the platform, and that the BJP uses single user multiple accounts for propaganda that affects neighbouring Bangladesh as well”. There were a number of dehumanising posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation.
It is little wonder that Aryan Khan has been remanded to police custody by a Mumbai court in a bailable offence, with no recovery or evidence of consumption found by NCB. Bail should have been granted to him under Section 436 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the first date itself, subject to his joining the investigation.
When a person other than a person accused of a non-bailable offence is arrested or detained without a warrant by an officer in charge of a police station, or is brought before a court, and is prepared by anytime while in the custody of such an officer or at any stage of the proceeding before such court to give bail, such person shall be released on bail.
The moot question is if there were no drugs found on Aryan Khan, why was his bail denied on vague grounds merely on suspicion?
Is he part of the ‘D’ gang? Or a local thug or an opiniated activist with a Muslim name?
If one scrolls down on Aryan Khan’s Instagram page one will see posts on travel, his university, on his hair vs gravity, or with his siblings. No signs of activism, no Azaadi sloganeering, not even a part of protest meets or walks. So the question is, is he being made an example of just because his father is the biggest superstar of the country? Correction: Is he being made an example of because his father happens to be a Muslim superstar of the biggest film industry in the world?
Let’s not forget that the political party in power has only won elections by baying for the blood of hapless Muslims so what if Shah Rukh Khan is innately secular, has a Hindu wife, keeps a Ganesha idol at home, donates to charitable causes generously, has won innumerable awards (a Padma Shri to boot) has made us laugh, live, love, weep through the various characters he has played in countless movies down the decades of his superstardom that just refuses to ebb.
Which makes me recall a heart-rending scene from the film ‘Manto’, when Saadat Hasan Manto decides to leave Bombay after seeing hate in his best friend Shyam’s eyes for Muslims, he asks: So will you kill me too if there is a riot and are compelled to choose a side? “But you are not a Muslim enough,” Shyam responds.
Manto responds by saying: Itna to hoon ki maara jaa sakoon (I am Muslim enough to be killed).
Today liberal and privileged Muslims might dislike playing the ‘victim card’ but can we afford to delude ourselves anymore by disbelieving that there is a systematic witch hunt on for Muslims to dehumanize and delegitimize for political motives?
History is witness to how fascism creates storm troopers. They slowly edge away the law enforcement agencies and force actions as they deem fit. It happened in Germany from 1930-1945. It is happening in India under Modi now.
In the ‘Star Wars’ universe, storm troopers accompanied the imperial navy and could swiftly respond to states of civil unrest or insurrection.
Every fascist regime has a storm trooper force ready to go for the kill.
According to Rudolf Diels, the chief of the political department of the Berlin police, the attitude could clearly be seen on city streets: “Not only communists but anyone who had ever expressed himself against Hitler’s movement was in danger”.
Today it appears like the BJP is using the NCB not to crack any drug nexuses or to even ensure that drugs are wiped out from the face of this country, but are making a mockery of their KRAs by arresting youngsters, harassing them no ends without any collaborated evidence of drug usage, media then laps up the ‘tamasha’… it has TRP’s to cater to after all.
Last year, it had trained its guns on Rhea Chakraborty, who grabbed enough eyeballs as the girlfriend of late Sushant Singh Rajput, since there was a lot of pressure to implicate her one way or the other, as no evidences were found in her role as either murderer or accomplice to Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged murder/suicide, it was alleged that Rhea was arrested in a bogus case with no evidence by NCB.
This year it has trained its guns on young Aryan Khan as news breaks in that Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan has been denied bail by a Mumbai court on the ground that the plea was not maintainable.
As Aryan Khan remains in custody for carrying no drugs on him, but on grounds of suspicion, lower courts will keep pandering to pressures of higher up’s till justice is not served by the higher courts of justice, let’s hope by the time Aryan Khan is released he’s not a broken man as we lie on the brink of a fascist takeover, there are real reasons to be concerned, and we should do whatever we can to raise our voices against such tyranny, take lessons from history and remain on guard as fascists transform their lies into reality, the dangerous thing would be people signing up to fake propaganda and believing in that unreality.
(Saira Shah Halim is a rights activist and educator)
(Views expressed are personal)
This content was originally published here.