It is the actor and those who support him in this act of insensitivity who need to be condemned.
by Shobha Shakti
The Sri Lankan government and President Mahinda Rajapaksa have for several years denied the fact that foreign citizens who enter the country with tourist visas have been a part of political meetings and discussions in Lankan media forums. Previously, many Tamil sympathisers, including poet VIC Jayabalan, a citizen of Norway, and journalist Maha Tamil Prabhakaran, were arrested and deported by the Sri Lankan government. Also, Kumar Gunaratnam, a leader of one of Sri Lanka’s leading parties – the Frontline Socialist Party – was clandestinely arrested, imprisoned and deported on the grounds of being an Australian citizen. Senior Tamil professor, A Marx, who was scheduled to deliver a speech at a public gathering in Colombo, was arrested by policemen, even before he could begin. I have always considered such actions by the Sri Lankan government anti-democratic.
But now, Mahinda Rajapaksa has brought Salman Khan, a foreign citizen into the country, to campaign for him in the forthcoming polls. Kumar Gunaratnam, who was deported three years ago, has also been brought back into the country under a tourist visa, and I see the prime reason behind this to be his capability to affect the Opposition party’s performance. Having said that, it also holds true that no one campaigning in support of the Opposition party is allowed to enter the country, even if he/she is of Sri Lankan origin under a tourist visa. Doing so could lead to his/her arrest and deportation.
While I agree that Salman Khan has the right to express his views at any forum, joining a political campaign in support of a man who has been accused of war crimes and genocide, is condemnable for me and anyone who is also a supporter of democracy. On one hand, when the democratic forces and minorities of the country are together striving to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa and get his government out of power, this act by Salman Khan is insulting, endorses discrimination and neglects the insensitivities that have occurred on this soil.
CommentOne of the groups protesting against Salman Khan in Mumbai – the Naam Tamilar Katchi – had in the past attacked a group of Buddhist monks and pilgrims visiting India from Sri Lanka. While such acts of violence can never be justified, a calm, democratic protest being carried out against the actor is fair to the freedom of people. It is Salman Khan and those who support him in this act of insensitivity, who need to be condemned, and not the ones voicing their angst against it in peaceful objection.
Shobha Shakti is a former LTTE child soldier who now lives as a refugee in Paris. The English translation of his second novel, Hmm…, is forthcoming from Penguin India.