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Thu 7 May 2015 09:37 AM

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Opinion: Salman Khan’s Dubai apologists should hang their heads in shame

Anil Bhoyrul says the statements issued by those standing by the Bollywood star, who was sentenced to five years in jail in for killing a homeless man during a drunken hit-and-run in 2002, are "embarrassing" and "gut wrenching"

Opinion: Salman Khan’s Dubai apologists should hang their heads in shame

The power of celebrity never ceases to amaze me. Over the past two decades, I’ve met and interviewed hundreds of them – from political leaders to Hollywood and Bollywood stars. By and large, I would say 95 percent of the “stars” that I met are actually pretty normal, interesting and probably quite decent people.

But what has always amazed me is the public’s obsession with stardom. Usually sensible, grown-up people, falling over themselves to worship somebody they have never met, just because they are famous. I thought I had seen it all when Kim Kardashian came to Dubai a few years back. However, events yesterday topped even that.

That was the day when a Mumbai court finally gave one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, Salman Khan, his just desserts. Back in 2002, Khan guzzled huge amounts of booze, jumped into his Toyota Land Cruiser, lost control, and rammed the car into a group of homeless people sleeping on the pavement and then fled the scene. There surely can't be a more hideous and disgusting crime.

For over a decade, Khan has been claiming that he wasn’t actually driving the car.     But the judge finally decided that Khan’s story is cock and bull. He is a killer, guilty of culpable homicide, and must spend the next five years behind bars.

The unnecessary death of a homeless man by a drunken Bollywood star deserves punishment. Most sensible people would argue that five years is too little.

But then Khan is a celebrity. With hours of his sentencing, there has been no shortage of Dubai’s leading Indian lights rushing to give their own verdict. Splash CEO Raza Beig, for whom Khan is a brand ambassador, told us: “At Splash we love Salman Khan and we will support him through every up and down. My heart breaks to find out about the verdict but as they say every great man in history has gone through some struggle to achieve greater heights so probably this is his calling. We cannot comment on the judgement and do not believe he deserves it but Allah's will it is.”

Sorry, Raza – I think you are one of the finest CEOs in town, and your parent company, Landmark, one of the greatest successes of the past three decades. But your praise for a convicted killer (and not a word about the victim) beggars belief.

Almost outdoing Raza is Parvez Khan, the chairman of Pacific Ventures, who told Gulf News: “It’s an emotionally sad day for us. We are all following his case closely and if anything sad happens to him then it means something sad is happening to us”. Not quite as sad as all this is for the homeless victim’s family…but never mind that.

Ajay Ramchandani, managing director of AJR Events, told Masala.com: “I keep him in my prayers”. Rashid Saeed of Essar Events also told Masala.com, rather absurdly: “He is being targeted because he is a star”. Aanya Aggarwal of Chocolate Entertainment explained to Masala.com: “All my prayers are with Salman Khan and his family”.

I could go on and on…but you get the picture don’t you? A large number of normally perfectly respectable business people have shown they are so obsessed with Bollywood stardom that they have come out to publicly praise and support a man convicted of a shocking crime. Not one of them has bothered saying a single word about the victim. It is embarrassing and it is gut wrenching.

Big brands like Splash should do the decent thing and drop their brand ambassador immediately. I have every confidence that Beig’s bosses at Landmark will see through his toe-curling praise for Khan and do just that.

As for the rest of the Khan apologists, they should hang their heads in shame. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But if they really believe that Salman Khan is a hero, despite what he did, then they should do two things: show just a tiny amount of respect for the dead man, and then shut up.

Rahul Malhotra 4 years ago

What a daft article... criticizing people for not looking at the bigger picture (correctly) but failing itself to examine the context of all this - which is corruption at every level of life in India, and the higher up you go the more corruption you find.

Yes he probably is guilty and probably does deserve to be punished, and probably 5 years is lenient, but....

If Salman Khan had been convicted it's not because the justice system is so good, it's because he couldn't exert enough influence to be exonerated or someone wanted to see him found guilty - for whatever reason. The world of Bollywood is hardly free from the grasp of politicians and gangsters.

No - it just depends how powerful you are. If you kill one man you can still get away with it if you know the right people. In fact if you kill thousands you can still get away with it

kiliman 4 years ago

Top class. I hope the star struck "Gulf dailies"take heed.

Phil Temple 4 years ago

Maybe if he and his driver had stopped to help the man they hit he could be alive today. Only a spineless coward leaves the scene of an accident. Too scared to face up to his own actions.

Deepak Yadav 4 years ago

Not justifying what Salman Khan did is right, but it was an unfortunate incident and not intentional.
1) Pavement is not a place to sleep, you inviting danger by sleeping there, its like crossing road where it is not meant to be crossed, it is suicidal.
2) He has suffered enough for 13 years by delayed justice so a sentence of 5 years is almost a sentence of 18 years.
3) He has done good deeds, community service and paid enough compensations. He has already paid his price.
Please Anil it was an unintended accident and not heinous crime, can happen by anyone driving on the road - lets set an example to punish them through community service, make them better drivers and not make them equivalent to people who do heinous crimes like murder, rape etc.
I do not agree with your post.

Zia Muhammed 4 years ago

Well said Anil.. crime is a crime .. no matter who done it.

MAJ 4 years ago

You hit the Nail on the Coffin !! Absolutely right.
Status of a Person should not influence JUSTICE. He was found guilty by the Court of Law. Guilty of KILLING !! A Homeless Person sleeping on the Street !!!
He is also charged for killing an Endangered Species Deer in Rajhastan ?? Maybe he was not holding the Gun ?? He is only being targeted because he is a Star ????

Normal Citizen 4 years ago

How well expressed an opinion aboit something that is unfortunately practised on a global basis for any kind of crimes (as defined by the law). A crime is a crime - no matter who committed it. Any crime needs to be sanctioned - irrespective of who's committed it. Period.

Ayesha 4 years ago

Agreed it could happen to any (irresponsible) person but to flee the scene after the whole thing is just cowardly. He has not 'suffered' that much in 13 years, I'm sure his multi-million dollar movies helped a bit.

Umesh 4 years ago

It was not an "unfortunate incident" a drunk guy behind wheels is same as a guy with an AK47 in his hand on the street. To top it off he fled the scene, instead of helping the victims.

1) Pavement is not a place to drive on either, what if your family member was walking on the pavement and got hit by him, would your comments be same? just because someone homeless was sleeping there (out of helplessness) doesn't justify your point.

2) Justice delayed is Justice denied, he has not suffered for last 13 years, he has made crores of rupees from his movies and has been enjoying outside of jail.

3) His good deeds have only started after the accident, before that he has killed an endangered species of animal, abused and hit his GF, used drugs and has interactions with Indian Mafia.

Deepak, A drunk guy behind wheels? it is a recipe for disaster and no matter how much you train people, you cant make "better drunk drivers".

Not shopping at landmark anymore for sure.

Sayeed Khan 4 years ago

Well said Deepak. I agree with your thoughts. People are getting emotional and trying to show that they care for the poor and the less fortunate ones. If we ask those people how many people they have helped in life the answer only they know, but my guess is that not many would have shown any kind gesture to poor. Here on the news paper column they pose to be very noble and wise.

Every one please look all the technicalities. Salam is guilty of motor vehicle accident, destruction of public property and also causing injury which led to death of one person. But the last one is not 100% Salam's fault. Some responsibility also lies with the person who had endangered his life by sleeping on the road which is not meant for that purpose.