UNDER INDIAN LAW, as far as anyone can be certain, putting one’s foot in the mouth is not a crime. Salman Khan has plenty to occupy himself with when it comes to legal proceedings. A stray remark about feeling like a raped woman after a frenetic shooting schedule shouldn’t be one of them. In an audio clip of that segment of the interview, he seems to have realised the inappropriateness of the comparison almost immediately, and murmurs something like “I don’t think…” before continuing with his train of thought. But it is not everyday that you get two buzzwords—Salman and rape—in the same context, which explains the overdrive on social media. But that is okay, because the nature of such networks is to relentlessly react and be seen doing it. The alternative to not pressing that retweet button is anonymity and loneliness. If Salman’s big mouth is today’s oxygen, then why begrudge that?
The problem is in a government institution called National Commission for Women leaping into the fray and trying to poke its nose into a business which is clearly not theirs. It has given Salman seven days to apologise or else it threatens to summon him. What happens after the summons? Can the NCW make him come? If he does not apologise as it demands, why would he come? What will it do if he does show up—demand an apology again? Chances are no one knows; chances are, by the end of a week, no one cares either.
The New Indian Express reports NCW sending a letter to Salman Khan which reads, ‘Considering rape is an extremely traumatising event, your statement represents a complete absence of logical retort and trivialises the act of rape. Moreover, such insensitive remarks coming from a person of your stature are unacceptable.’ Let’s concede that Salman’s words trivialise rape, but what exactly is ‘a complete absence of logical retort’? And would insensitive remarks be acceptable if it came from someone without his stature? So the letter doesn’t really have a lot to be eloquent about someone having said something stupid.
The women’s rights activist Flavia Agnes, when asked by The Times of India for her reaction to the Salman Khan statement, said, “The actor’s comments are unwarranted, silly and in poor taste, and according to me, no weightage should be given, even by the women’s commission, because it would only give him undue publicity.” But Salman really does not need extra publicity; the institution usually courting undue publicity is the women’s commission itself. It is a toothless body which has little to do and is run by not very successful politicians who see publicity as one of the few benefits of being there. This is a country that has more than an overwhelming number of real women’s issues to grapple with. The NCW should be chasing them instead of Salman Khan.