The recent arrest of Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan, was aimed at bringing to heel the Bollywood superstar, a Muslim, for not aligning with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, according to a prominent international magazine.
“The BJP has been at the forefront of pushing through its Hindutva and anti-Muslim agenda in all spheres of life in India,” The Diplomat, which is based in Washington, said in a dispatch.
“The superstars of the film industry, incidentally, are three Khans, all Muslims — Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh. Shah Rukh Khan is the biggest superstar of them all; his universal appeal cutting across the divides of class and religion,” Kavita Chowdury, the magazine’s correspondent, wrote.
“So it is not surprising that the entire episode came to be perceived as the targeting of a Muslim superstar for not aligning with the Narendra Modi government as several others in the film industry had done.
” Pointing out that the case, which began on October 3 with the arrest of Aryan and his two friends aboard a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai by officials of India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the report said it was not just a routine case.
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The NCB team, headed by Sameer Wankhede, it said, leveled a string of specious charges, including possession of drugs and contact with an international drug racket, against Aryan to oppose his bail.
Aryan’s stay in jail consequently was extended as his bail plea was rejected twice by the lower courts; this despite the fact that no drugs were found on him, the report said, citing India’s leading legal experts.
“All through these weeks,” the report said, “Khan maintained a stoic silence while focusing solely on getting his son released,” visiting his son only once in jail.
“India’s television news channels however ensured there was 24/7, paparazzi-like coverage marked by sensationalism and screaming headlines, projecting the star son and the film fraternity as entitled ‘drug junkies.’
World’s biggest celebrity, Mighty SHAHRUKH KHAN @iamsrk being persecuted and harassed by ruling BJP by arresting his son #AryanKhan without charges, and denying him bail for 20 days, on suspicion of consumption of drugs. Today they raided SRK residence Mannat. He is KING KHAN. https://t.co/o768wqU9MB
— Miss Khan (@misskhan) October 21, 2021
“Expectedly, the film fraternity, unlike its counterpart in Hollywood, which is more vocal on such issues, chose to clam up,” the report added. “Things became murkier when it came to light that a local BJP politician in collusion with a private detective, Kiran Gosavi, had given the ‘tip-off’ and participated in the NCB raid on the cruise ship.
“Even as such conjectures were rife and social media was bitterly divided over this, the political plot behind the raid, started unravelling at a frenetic pace,” it was pointed out.
“Nawab Malik, a minister in the Maharashtra government, addressed several press conferences launching a direct attack against the NCB and its head, Wankhede. Incidentally, Wankhede was the same officer who had last year targeted a bevy of ‘A lister’ Bollywood film stars.
Actor Rhea Chakraborty spent a month in jail, on specious charges of drug smuggling in connection with the death of her boyfriend, actor Sushant Singh Rajput. “Malik has alleged a conspiracy by the centrally ruling BJP to destabilize the Maharashtra state government and Bollywood, using central agencies like the NCB…
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“Malik further accused the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanth of maligning and harassing the film industry fraternity in order to get the industry to relocate to Uttar Pradesh where Adityanath is building a new film city in Noida… Shah Rukh Khan, who is married to Gauri, a Hindu, he has never been perceived as a Muslim actor, the magazine said.
But he dared to address Islamophobia in a 2010 film titled, “My Name is Khan,” the tagline reading “and I am Not a Terrorist.” “It is no coincidence that ever since BJP and Narendra Modi came in to power in 2014, Bollywood has increasingly been churning out jingoistic blockbusters pandering to Hindutva sentiments,” the magazine highlighted.
Not mincing his words, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray lashed out at the BJP-led central government, accusing it of “defaming Maharashtra” and “diverting attention” from a larger 3,000 kg haul of heroin at Mundra port in Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Incidentally, Wankhede, the NCB official, is now on the backfoot after allegations of extortion were made against him in connection with the Aryan case, the dispatch said.
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The Mumbai Police launched a formal probe into the matter. Facing charges of personal and professional impropriety, a defensive Wankhede moved the Bombay High Court seeking protection from arrest.
The Mumbai Police assured the court that it will give Wankhede a three-day notice before arresting him, and he is also facing the heat from his own agency, which has launched a vigilance inquiry against him.
“In all this political mudslinging to settle scores, Khan hired the country’s top lawyers, including former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi, to get his son out of jail,” the report said. After three days of arguments in the Bombay High Court, Khan junior was granted bail.
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However, it took him more than two days to be finally released due to procedural issues.
“If it took a celebrity like Shah Rukh Khan 28 days to get his son out on bail, what chances do ordinary citizens have when they come up against the might of the state and its agencies,” the Magazine asked.