Salman Khan – My take:
I’m happy that Mr.Khan is convicted. I’m relieved that justice is finally done. But I wish to write about something else: something that suprised me. I didn’t think we had the strength.
Let me put the record straight. I don’t like Mr. Khan. And that’s not because he lacks in his acting ability. It’s because he beats his girlfriends, threatens those who oppose him, shoots black bucks, or is a self-professed good human being because he wears ‘Being Human’ Tshirts. I don’t like such a person.
But there is something else I wish to talk about.I wish to talk about our secret weapon. I want to talk about us, about “We, the People”.
Consider this. It took 13 years for a criminal to be punished. Forget the law’s delays. We all know about that. But every day of those 13 years Mr. Khan employed his considerable wealth and influence to alter public perception.
As Jean Paul Sartre would say, things are the image of the image. Public perception is of the image of the thing. And whatever a thing may be, we believe the image that is projected. So whatever else Mr. Khan may be in real life, it was his image that would matter.
Mr.Khan knew this. This was smart thinking on his part. For he knew that if he could build and project an image of a cute, kind hearted, charitable loveable human being, we would believe that image and see him as such.
Such a perception has a two-fold danger.
First, it exploits our faith. We begin to believe that if Mr.Khan says he didn’t do it, then prehaps he didn’t. And even if he may have made a mistake, he is a good man who deserves our sympathy, and not our scorn.
Second, it exploits our systems. Our civilisation is composed of several systems designed to support and sustain our society. These include our Police, Justice and Media systems. We have to trust these in order to believe that our lives are secure.
Mr.Khan made a 13 year investment in building an image of good man who might have committed an error, or who may even be innocent, but never the less deserved our indulgence. He gambled on the assumption that if a majority of the people believed this, they would not only forgive him, but would respect him. He also know that our Police and Judicial systems were manned by common people- people like us. And when the Police & the Public Prosecutors and Judges work the system, they are as much affected by public perception as you or I. He also believed that the Media could be managed.
So ultimately it came down to us. To we, the people. And for we the people, it was a real challenge. With witnesses disappearing or dying, with documents going missing, with judges getting transferred, with the media building a whole new persona of a man who visited childrens’ hospitals and orphan homes, who gave freely and willingly to a dozen charities, whose film roles were of the Upholder of Law (although in somewhat unorthodox ways), we were dealing with just one of us- someone trying to be human.
But with this handicap of perception, we still took on the challenge. And brought a criminal to book.
I’m especially proud of many of us who took on the fight. I’m proud of my fellow lawyer Pradeep Gharat. He faced overwhelming odds. But he never gave in. As one lawyer to another, he and his team pushed this case to its almost impossible conclusion.
I’m overwhelmingly proud of my friend Abha Singh. When the going got tough, she got going. In the more difficult stages she became the voice of we the people. She was almost singlehandedly responsible for the effort required for rendering accountability to the system. For not allowing the famous loopholes of law to become highways of escape. Abha may be a lawyer of recent vintage who draws her strength from her husband, retired IPS Officer, Y.P. Singh. The duo or known to take on the might of the establishment often. In Salman’s case, she kept on with her applications to the Court to point out legal lacune which neither the Prosecution nor the Defense lawyers could refute. She was was so determined that justice should be done that she was like a one man army.
And I am humbled and proud at of Justice D. W. Deshpande who had the wisdom to see through all of Salman’s showmanship; and who had the courage of conviction that finally HE was the custodian of the Rule of Law. And he found Salman guilty in that capacity.
And I am so proud of the Press media. They were not taken in by Mr.Khan’s public perception improvement effort, and looked upon the entire PR exercise with the same tolerant amusement of a parent observing the excitement of the children caused by the momentary commotion of a circus passing through town.
So I am happy that Mr. Khan got what was coming to him.
But I’m glad that it was delivered by We, the People.
Advocate Shreehari Aney
Advocate Aney is a Senior Advocate of the Maharashtra Bar Council and a well known Advocate of Bombay High Court and Supreme court in Delhi.
He is known for taking on significant causes such as the Gowaris’ case in the now well known ‘Gowari hatyakand’. He is the grandson of the illustrious first proponent of Vidarbha Bapuji Aney and devoted to the cause himself.
He has studied LLB at the ILS Law College and graduated from the Ness Wadia College of Commerce. He is based in Mumbai now.