The world’s largest democracy may need a reminder that everyone is equal before the law
A pair of fiascos by two scions of two different mighty families has shocked and surprised Indians. One in the deep blue Arabian sea on a colourful fine evening. The other miles away from the Western coast -- on the plain arable land of Uttar Pradesh in broad daylight.
The two cases are different, yet share one mutual thing: An influential dad. None of them are known for their deeds. One’s dad is Shah Rukh Khan, the world Bollywood tsar. The other offender’s dad is India’s junior Union Home Minister Ajay Mishra.
From a cheerful Goa-bound cruise ship, India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) ,led by Sameer Wankhede, husband of a Marathi actress Kranti Redkar, detained Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan along with several others in relating to possession, consumption, and sale of illegal substances (drugs).
The NCB seized 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of MD, 21 grams of charas, and 22 pills of ecstasy and currency worth Rs1.33 lakh during the raid on the cruise ship. Aryan Khan was arrested, taken to Mumbai, and produced to the court immediately. Khan’s destiny is being re-written by the court.
The other case occurred in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. An SUV ploughed into agitating farmers in Uttar Pradesh state on October 3, taking lives of four men. A green arable land was outraged by raw red blood, deep grey smoke, and frenzied attacks by the furious farmer. The violence claimed eight lives, four among them were farmers. The angry mob complained that Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra was in the car and even fired a few rounds of bullets.
The Uttar Pradesh police has filed a case against 13 people, but main accused Ashish Mishra remained untouched till India’s top court’s intervention. Union Junior Minister Ajay Mishra and his son both have rejected the accusations and said that they were not present at the spot. Ashish Mishra earlier said he ran away from the spot but later denied his presence behind the wheel. His versions are varying.
The UP authority installed a retired judge to chair a probing commission on the violence. After India’s highest judiciary authority Supreme Court’s criticism of Uttar Pradesh police, a Special Investigation Team of Uttar Pradesh police interrogated minister’s son Ashish Mishra on October 9 for over nine hours. A few demonstrators are alleged to have witnessed the son in the driver’s seat of the SUV mow down the farmers.
A few days later, Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of UP, ordered to file an FIR against the minister’s son, met the families of the deceased farmers, and allocated Rs45 lakh to each family.
Neither Minister Mishra is going to put in his papers on moral ground, nor his party is expected to expel him from the ministerial portfolio. The prime minister of an agriculture-based state India, Modi has not paid any heed to expressing concerns on the farmers’ death.
Inside UP, the regional parties are contemplating whom to support and plucking cards to play ahead of the election. With incumbency at the centre as well as state of UP, BJP is most likely to remain on its defiant stance. Soon after BJP-member parliamentarian Varun Gandhi condemned the Lakhimpur attack, his mother Maneka Gandhi was dropped from the party’s national executive member’s list.
The prompt action of the central agency NCB on the case of Aryan Khan drew kisses and hisses. Shah Rukh Khan’s image is maligned by people from the film industry over his 23-year-old son’s blunder. Many are of the opinion that it was done deliberately just because his title is Khan. On the other hand, the reluctance and delay of arrest of a union minister’s son speaks volumes not just about the incumbent party’s arrogance, but also questions common Indians’ rights.
The controversy formed in the deep blue Arabian sea has unleashed a tsunami of critical opprobrium. In the mainland, the spark that emerged from Lakhimpur Kheri will not be confined in the boundaries of Uttar Pradesh either. This will provoke responses among the voters of Uttarakhand and Punjab, where assembly election is also forthcoming.
This will unite all the fragmented farmers, Sikhs, and hit their sentiments. Albeit reluctance of the state police and administration, the union minister’s son is brought to the court. Had there been no furious agitation and civic participation in the protest, Mishra, the son of the minister, would have enjoyed the greetings and receptions like a son-in-law by the state functionaries. The arrogant remarks by the BJP minister reflected that. Everyone is equal before the law, but unfortunately to remind this to the leaders -- even world’s largest democracy will have to serve a gentle reminder!
Ayanangsha Maitra is an Indian freelance journalist, associated to The Peninsula Foundation, Chennai, and Bay of Bengal Conversation 2022 in Dhaka. He tweets @Ayanangsha.