The law abiding citizen

Ronald Reagan was never clear whether he had actually fought in the Second World War or just acted in films about it. Actors have to live constantly in a world where fact and fantasy are interwoven in a way that is hard to keep separate. The only time I met Sanjay Dutt it seemed to me that he was very much in that tradition.

Now it would seem reality has caught up with him in a ruthless way. This reality is very Indian. It has taken 20 years to come to a final decision on his guilt. People have forgotten the context of the 1993 riots. After 9/11, and much more so since the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, bomb blasts can only mean one thing—Islamist terrorism. It is hard to remember that the Mumbai blasts were a chapter in the intense communal war launched in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition. The riots which followed in many cities of India during December 1992 and January 1993 were directed against Muslims. Congress governments at the Centre and in the states sat idle while Muslims were attacked by Hindu mobs.

In Mumbai there was a pogrom against Muslims carried out by the Shiv Sena, BJP and Congress. (I was in Mumbai during early January 1993 to give a lecture. I had to be given a police escort from the Taj to the airport through burning streets.) It is all recorded in the Srikrishna report. No one has been punished for the crimes named in that report.

Sanjay Dutt is in his family history a paradigm of Indian secularism. His maternal great grandmother was a Brahmin child widow who ran away to become a Muslim and joined the singing profession in Allahabad. Jaddan Bai married a Hindu who also converted and their daughter was the famous Nargis, who had twin names as Fatima and Tejeshwari. She met and married Balraj (Sunil) Dutt, who came from the Mohyal Brahmin community which had fought at Karbala way back in the days of the Great Schism in Islam! At her marriage conducted with Arya Samaj rituals, Nargis declared her name as Tejeshwari. When she died at 50, Hindu and Muslim priests debated as to how the body should be treated. It had eventually an ecumenical treatment.

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