What followed the conviction was enough to prove the Orwellian dictum that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Shishir Tripathi | May 8, 2015
On Wednesday afternoon I was tempted to change a dialogue from Arthur Miller’s play ‘Death of a Salesman’. It reads, “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman.”
I changed it to, “I am a dime a dozen, I am a dog and you are human”, and attributed it to the victims in the hit-and-run case.
In this case, film star Salman Khan was convicted by a Mumbai sessions court for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment. His rash driving and negligence killed one person and injured four others, some 13 years ago.
Having stated the procedural fact the reason for tampering Miller’s play needs to be justified. What followed the conviction was enough to prove the Orwellian dictum that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The manner in which Khan was made out to be the ‘victim’ in the case, when the court adjudged him the perpetrator, even belied Orwell’s thesis. It was like stating that all humans are humans but some are animals.
“Salman was in tears when the order was pronounced, Salman hugged his father before leaving for court,” stated a news report. It seemed that Khan was the victim and those killed and injured due to his rash driving were in the wrong.
I tried to find out the name of the victim in the case but sadly could not find it anywhere. Nobody was bothered about the real victims. What happened to them was not a question that was asked by anyone. People were concerned about Rs 200 crore at stake and saddened on the conviction of the “philanthropist”.
The film fraternity which takes high moral stand on such issues and have made movies like ‘No One Killed Jessica’ and ‘Jolly LLB’ came in open support for the convicted actor.
Playback singer Abhijeet posted on his Twitter a comment in favour of Khan. It read, "Kutta rd pe soyega kutte ki maut marega, roads garib ke baap ki nahi hai I ws homles an year nvr slept on rd." (If a dog sleeps on the road, it will die a dog's death. The poor and homeless must not sleep on roads... I too was homeless once, but never slept on road.”) Abhijeet’s comment was criticised as insensitive and people reacted sharply to the tweet. If only Abhijeet would have seen ‘Jolly LLB’, a 2013 Hindi film based on 1999 hit-and-run case involving businessman Sanjeev Nanda, (also known as the BMW hit and run case), he would have refrained from making such senseless comments.
Boman Irani acting as defence counsel for the his client Rahul Dewan accused of killing people sleeping on footpath, says that footpaths are not meant to sleep and if one sleeps on it, one is prone to such mishaps. Arshad Warsi fighting for victims retorts that if footpath is not meant for sleeping it certainly is not meant for driving.
Actor Hema Malini told news agency PTI that "A law is a law. This is unfortunate. Salman's family are law-abiding citizens and they have already undergone 13 years of mental torture. His philanthropic work is well known and he is known to help the needy people."
It left me baffled and wondering what point all the Khan supporters were trying to make by referring to his philanthropy. Were they trying to say that the best penance for the powerful is philanthropy and that can actually make their wrongs more human. Whatever the logic behind such statements may be the case was litmus test for judiciary which it failed to a very great extent in 1999.
In 1999, Sanjeev Nanda, then a Wharton Business School student, ran over six people, including three police officers. Nanda was initially acquitted by the trial court but in a retrial was found guilty in 2008 and sentenced to two years in prison, which was reduced to time served, a large fine, and two years of community service by the supreme court in 2012.
While Nanda was initially acquitted by the trial court Khan was convicted by the same and given a harsher sentence which clearly reflects the maturing of democracy and calls for some applause.
It at least sends a signal to powerful that they cannot take law for a ride just because they crush people by BMWs and Land Rovers and can afford Rs 10 lakh per hearing attorneys. At the same time the manner in which rhetoric was build around Khan as being a victim needs to be slammed.
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