Words, not silence, are the need of the hour, Mr. Bachchan
During a song launch of the film 102 Not Out, Bollywood icon, legendary superstar, Amitabh Bachchan was asked to comment on the recent instances of rape in Unnao, Surat, and Kathua. Here is his reply, ad verbatim: “Even discussing this issue feels disgusting, don’t bring up this issue. It is terrible to even talk about it.”
An open letter to him, in response:
Dear Mr. Bachchan,
There is a time to speak up, and a time to remain silent. This is not it. Is it enough to say, at the song launch of your soon-to-be-released movie 102 Not Out, that the recent incidences of rape in Kathua and Unnao disgust you and it’s better not to talk about them? Well, your silence, your refusal to stand up and condemn what is happening around us, disgusts me.
The Unnao rape survivor endured the death of her father and had to fight a lot of battles against a powerful MLA of Uttar Pradesh before the national media as well the public (and celebrities) started paying attention to her case. The 8-year-old Asifa was brutally raped for nearly a week inside a temple in a pre-planned conspiracy to scare the Bakerwals and Gujjars out of the Hindu dominated area.
Do you realize the signals you send out when you voice such thought, Mr. Bachchan? Not just as a huge Indian icon almost revered by the nation but also as the brand ambassador of India’s ‘Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao’. (Save and Educate the Girl Child) Does your mere expression of disgust justify your role as Brand ambassador to the Save the Girl Child campaign?
Rape and sexual assault—especially of minors is a reality we are living with. An eight-year-old was abducted from a wedding and raped in Etah. A 10-year-old was raped by her own father in Mahoba . A father in Sitapur ‘gifted’ his 35-year-old daughter to his friends to gang rape and then joined them in the act. And even as I write- another 9-year-old has been abducted and raped in Chhattisgarh. All in the last one week!
When somebody of your stature, power, influence and authority prefers to maintain silence over such issues…what are the signals being sent out? If someone like you refuses to even talk about such issues, what of the rest of the country?
The last time your speech, or better to say words, raised a furor was ironically perfectly timed– just before the launch of your movie Pink, a strong tome that advocated equal rights for women and stressed that “No means No.”
At that time your patronizing letter to your grand-daughters Navya Naveli and Aaradhya stated they should not “let the length of their skirt allow anyone to decide it as a measure of their character.”
Maybe you should re-read that letter you wrote to your grand-daughters, where you say—“You live in the shadows of people’s judgment. Make your choices in the light of your on wisdom….don’t let anyone believe that the length of your skirt is the measure of your character.” Are you following your own advice to your grand-daughters in your letter wherein you say, “At the end of the day you are the only one who will face the consequences of your actions, so don’t let other people make your decisions for you.” I hope you remember that, sir.
Dr. Shirin Abbas