The ‘Jail Ya Bail’ Saga – Ashoke Pandit reacts to Salman Khan’s conviction!

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Salman Khan – this name is not a name of a superstar but a phenomenon. A phenomenon who took the entire country by storm. This country has seen its share of stars and superstars but what we saw this week was something totally different. There was this man who was waiting conviction for a crime that was clearly punishable in the eyes of the law but the entire country was swinging to a music of another kind. For many, Salman was no mortal being but the messiah who could do no wrong and if at all by the fluke of bad luck he did ; it was pardonable in the eyes of the hero worshipers.

To just say that his fans were the only ones who were praying that he be a free man would be wrong. As an industry, though we conceded that the sanctity of law needs to be upheld, we all were huffing and puffing only to one beat. “Why Salman?” We wanted to sound all rational and practical but we just could not accept it, because for us it was not just Salman the superstar but also he was the son of the much respected Salim Khan sahab. Seeing the visuals on TV of a family that was trying hard to save their crown prince was heart breaking. Though everyone was praying for Salman but many prayed for his old parents who deserved better.

The Salman Khan’s hysteria had spared none. Even the hoity-toity power wielding editors of news channels who sit on high chairs had been pulled off on the streets to report about ‘Salman Ko Jail Ya Bail’. This man had brought the nation to one level of equality; either you were part of the hysteria or scoffing about the hysteria but we all were two sides of the same coin called Salman Khan.

By afternoon, when the hysteria was dying I got thinking about the three day filmy judicial drama. Was Salman Khan paying a huge price for being a celebrity? Would an ordinary citizen in his place would walk away with a much lighter sentence? As in the case of BMW or Allister Pereira they all got lighter sentences of two-three years while Salman was meted out a harsh five. Was he made to pay a price for his fame and success?

The basic belief in this country is that if you are rich and someone; you go scot-free but in this case Salman Khan, though tried every legal tact for the same, but he got cornered on every end. As if he was being made an example out of it; one would not mind if this whole example thing would be equal for all the people across the spectrum. It is not like Salman’s drink and drive was the first neither was it the last. Incidents happened, many were booked while many slipped through the crevices of the law. But to give a harsher verdict just because you are a celebrity is a bit anarchic. The critics were of the opinion that Salman should have been treated like an ordinary man but if truth is to be weighed, an ordinary man would have either escaped any punishment or got a much lighter one. But this was not the case with The Khan.

Salman being tried and punished; was a triumph of fair and impartial law of the land. But what baffles me is this very law of the land turns a blind eye when a Yasin Malik, a heinous terrorist and a traitor, rapes and plunders and walks free and indignant. If the law of the land wants to make an example of a Salman Khan then even a Yasin Malik should not be left scot-free. If one is planning of making an example out of this one case, then every case that happens in this country should be dealt with the iron hand and not allowed to slip away.

Internationally, the thought that celebrities are above the law does ring true most often then not. It might be Michael Jackson or O. J. Simpson, they all walked away free after trials that all along tilted against them. But in India, the recent trend in celebrity crimes, the stats show a very different trend. It may be Sanjay Dutt or Salman Khan they all paid a price for their crimes. One wonders when these icons get punished are they only paying a price for their crime or they are paying a price for a celebrity obsessed country which clearly loses its rationale when it comes to a celebrity. Either we want to pardon him leniently or punish him so harsh that an example out of him is made that if you are a celebrity there is every chance that law will surely take a different mighty course.

The Salman Khan case has clearly raised a question – Is law equal for all? Is his pain being framed to show the impartiality of the law?

It’s something that the law makers and judicial minds need to give a thought about. While they do the thinking, all Salman fans are already in the prayer mode for coming July where instead of Salman’s box office verdict, his court verdict will again be put on trial.

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