Recently actor Salman Khan made news, not for a role in a movie but for what he did in his real life 13 years ago one night after drinking alcohol: he drove a car (SUV), killed a man, injured four people, and fled the scene. His victims, male and poor, were sleeping on a sidewalk.
On 6 May 2015, a judge found Khan guilty and sentenced him to five years in prison. What took our judiciary system so long to bring Khan to a trial?
What happened immediately after the verdict is even more disturbing than the question of what took so long.
Fellow actors, actresses, and others in the film industry took to the Twittersphere: “We are with you,” referring to Salman. “Poor should not sleep on sidewalks,” “Dogs sleep on footpaths,” “We love you,” and so on.
When one reads these sorts of messages, one thinks that Khan’s admirers do not believe in upholding the laws of the land. They are saying that the judge should not have found Salman guilty and that everyone else is at fault, except Khan.
The lower court in Mumbai made a fool of itself: Salman Khan was never taken to a jail. The judge punished the defendant so that the public would think he, the judge, did the right thing, but at the same time, it appeared, he wanted to set Salman free. And the upper court immediately let Salman go free on bail. Therefore, the trial was a mockery.
The majority of the Indian people, including poor, often go to see movies for entertainment. They worship movie stars. On the night of the accident, Khan probably killed and injured his fans. The victims may have seen many of his movies, for he has starred in more than 90 Hindi-language films.
Indian entertainers are omnipresent and omnipotent. How do you bring them down from pedestals? One answer: economics.
Fewer movie goers mean less revenue to film makers. Similarly, fewer hours in front of television mean less revenue to broadcasting corporations.
Not all movies are worth seeing. Some plots are copied from foreign films; many are simply recycled. Likewise, not all television shows are worth watching. If our people would cut down on going to cinema halls and on watching television, they would help themselves as well as our nation.
Alternatively, movie goers may want to read books. Reading books will increase their knowledge by many folds. It will augment their ability to communicate better and, possibly, capability to earn more. And the nation, in turn, will have a smarter workforce.
Salman Khan is a good guy; he has helped thousands. However, that does not mean he is above the law and that he should be absolved from the punishment. Is his life more precious than the man he killed or the four people he injured?