I was shocked by the celebratory manner in which some television channels reported the arrest of Aryan Khan, son of film star Shah Rukh Khan. I was hugely amused when I first heard about the senior Khan when I attended a round-table conference organised by Panos Asia at a resort in Sri Lanka about 17 years ago.
There was a stunningly beautiful journalist from Pakistan, who worked in Dubai. I heard her describing Shah Rukh Khan in absolute panegyrical terms. I have forgotten the exact words she used to describe the depth of subliminal emotions in his eyes and how it transfixed her. She had an occasion to interview him in Dubai and she could not take her eyes away from his eyes.
She told us in jest that we could have our Kashmir if we could give Shah Rukh Khan to Pakistan. No Indian woman would describe how besotted she was to an actor whom she met casually in her professional capacity. In any case, candidness is alien to us.
On my return to Chandigarh, one of the first things I did was to see a Shah Rukh starrer. I was all the time straining my eyes to look into his eyes but I did not find the depth of emotions she described. Nor did his eyes transfix me. Nonetheless, I liked his easy-going style of acting that made him a darling of the masses.
I have seen several of his films and I would not contest it if someone says that I am his fan. He is the quintessential showman who could lift up a lady on the stage and that, too, as heavy a person as singer Rimi Tomy, without as much as batting his eyelid. That makes him dear to people like me.
As a father, I can empathise with him over the travails he and his wife Gauri Khan have been facing ever since Aryan Khan, whose deep blue eyes many would find transfixing, was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) from a luxury liner off Mumbai. When bail, not jail, is the norm, it is surprising that he has been sent to jail. Here, let me make it very clear, I hate all narcotic and intoxicating substances. For many states in India, one of the main sources of income is the tax on liquor. Not many know that whisky, brandi, beer etc are inexpensive to manufacture as it does not involve the technology that China used in developing a supersonic missile that is first sent to outer space from where it can be directed to any spot in the world.
It is the Central and state taxes that make liquor costlier. The money the government collects is the money the people should have spent on better food, education and clothes than on liquor which ruins their health and life. It is actually blood money as despicable as the 30 silver Judas collected for betraying Jesus. Addiction to liquor is what pauperised millions of people in India.
Recently, the media went to town with the story of how a lottery winner kept the news secret till he handed over the ticket to a bank and obtained a receipt for the same. The crores he received and the many crores the government received came from the pockets of the poor. Lottery is another form of gambling which needs to be curtailed, not promoted. What moral right does the government have to send Aryan Khan to jail when it pushes millions of people into pauperisation to collect taxes on liquor and addictive habits like lottery?
The Narcotic authorities admit that no drug was seized from Aryan Khan. This is not my statement. This is what they officially told the court which heard his bail petition. Was Aryan Khan a dealer of drugs? No, he was not. At best, he was a user.
I once had a glass of milk mixed with “bhang” in the company of writer, painter and good friend, the late Rajan Kakkanadan. That was the first and only time I had anything of that kind.
There are millions of people, some of them ascetics who wear the ochre or who do not wear anything, who use cannabis. I went for bird photography to a marshy area near Noida in UP. There, my friend PG Rajeev showed me cannabis that grew luxuriously on both sides of the public road. Anyone could pluck their leaves and make use of them for a kick. If all such people are jailed, the present jails would be filled up in no time. So what is special about Aryan Khan? It is claimed that he knew that someone had the drug in his possession.
The knowledge that someone has drugs is as good as possessing drugs! What kind of logic is this? And for good measure, the authorities presented the chat Khan had with someone, probably his girlfriend, to prove that he was guilty. I am shocked that chats of this kind are used as evidence!
I had a classmate who used to tell us about his sexual exploits. It was fun listening to him. If he were to be believed, there was no girl, nubile or old, in his village whom he had not touched. We knew that it was his fantasy and his stories were at best figments of his imagination. When a lover tells his beloved, “I will kill you”, it does not mean that he will first try to kill her by throwing a viper at her and then provoking a Cobra to bite her as had happened in the infamous Uthra murder case.
Those in love may say many nonsensical things to each other. Only the NCB treats such chats as gospel truth. Of course, it served the purpose of the authorities to keep Aryan Khan in jail. Investigation, alas, has become the art of the possible. Drug use is common in the tinsel world. It has been said about a particular doctor, whose arms were specially “created” for heart surgery, that he is on drugs when he operates upon a patient. Let me warn the readers, this may not be true at all.
The point I want to make was underscored by the late Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom. On a visit to a jail, he told the prisoners, “You are fools, that is why you are in jail. We are smart, that is why we are not in jail”. What he said is absolutely true. There are many others who use drugs and enjoy all creature comforts, while Aryan Khan, from whom not even one gram of drug was seized, is in jail!
Let me say, there was something fishy about the case right from the beginning. Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik had raised suspicions about the whole operation. He released some videos and photographs which suggest that some non-NCB persons played an active role in what he calls the “frame-up” of Aryan Khan.
In one video, BJP leader Manish Bhanushali and a private investigator associated with Sleuths India Detectives KP Gosavi were seen entering the NCB office the day the raid was conducted on Cordelia Cruiser. Photographs showing Bhanushali holding the hand of Arbaaz Merchantt and Gosavi posing with Aryan had earlier been appearing on social media.
The question that arose was how they were allowed to take part in the raid, as if they were part of the NCB. That one of them happens to be a petty criminal against whom a case of cheating is registered in Pune strengthens the suspicion. True, raids are conducted on intelligence gathered from ground sources but the informers are never allowed to flaunt their nexus with the police, let alone allowed to take selfies with the arrested persons.
Unfortunately, a new trend of civilians getting associated with law and order authorities is noticeable. When the agitation against the citizenship laws was at its peak, persons wearing khaki trousers were seen wielding the lathi, whether it was at Jamia Milia or JNU.
There was the infamous picture of a civilian pointing a pistol at the protestors with the police behind him. The media reported extensively on how the police allowed a group of ruffians to enter the students’ hostels at JNU and attack the students.
The question that needs to be asked is, would the NCB have allowed ordinary informers the liberty the duo enjoyed on the ship and off the ship? My argument is not that Aryan Khan should be let off because of his celebrity status. Nor should he be framed.
As I write this, the NCB authorities “raided” the house of Shah Rukh Khan, ostensibly to collect evidence against his son. Is he in the drug business? Does he run a drug syndicate like the ones in Latin America? Why does the department go after Aryan Khan, as if he is a dreaded drug mafia chief.
A few days before the NCB raided the ship from where Aryan Khan was arrested, the world’s largest consignment of drugs weighing 3000 kgs was seized from a private port in Gujarat. The consignment was worth Rs 20,000 crore. Who could have invested that kind of money to import such a large quantity from Afghanistan? The Afghans are not fools as the British, the Russians and the Americans have learnt to their dismay.
They would not have sent such a consignment without receiving the price in advance. So, who could have invested so much money? The South Indian couple in whose name the consignment came was a dummy. They were promised a small fee for using their address.
The real traders of the drug are influential people. The NCB does not have the wherewithal to follow up the seizure and arrest the guilty. Instead, it finds time to keep Aryan Khan in jail, though it could not seize even one gm from his possession.
What kind of investigation is this that you leave those who tried to smuggle 3000 kg of heroin worth Rs 20,000 crore, while targeting a boy who the NCB says is guilty because he knew that someone had a few grams of heroin with him. What justice is this!
Allowance also must be made for the fact that use and keeping of drugs up to a certain quantity are legal in many countries in the American and European continents where the elite in India want their children to study and settle down.
To return to SRK, there are many who blame him for what happened to his son. It is like blaming Mahatma Gandhi for his elder son Harilal Gandhi who became Abdullah Gandhi only to become Hiralal Gandhi. He could not give up his liquor addiction and attended his father’s funeral in a state of drunkenness.
There is another son who caused enormous distress to his father, John Matthai, who as Finance Minister of India, gave his budget speech extempore quoting all the figures rightly. He resigned from the Cabinet following differences of opinion with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who allegedly did not consult him properly when the Planning Commission was set up.
The real reason was different. He had a son named Ravi doing his MA at Allahabad University. One evening, he got drunk and was driving his car. On the way, he hit a pedestrian who died on the spot.
“Matthai did not flee. He picked up the body, put it in his car and surrendered to the police. He then went to the house of the famous lawyer, Tej Bahadur Sapru, a friend of his father, and told him what had happened. Sapru is said to have asked, “Why did you go to the police? You should have come here straight!”
“A police case was registered. Dr Matthai is said to have consulted Nehru who told him bluntly that the law would take its course. Dr Matthai then went to Sardar Patel, the home minister, who suggested that the boy be brought to Delhi and then packed off to a foreign destination. The father decided that Oxford would be that destination”.
Many years later, Ravi Matthai returned to India as the first Director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. He not only built the IIM “brick by red brick” but also played a role in the setting up of several management institutes, including the one at Thiruvananthapuram. In fact, he became the father of management education in India.
Setbacks in life do not mean the end of life. Just as Ravi Matthai could turn out to be a gem of a person, Aryan Khan could become dearer to the people than even his father. That is my fervent desire.