With Aamir, Narmada, Bhopal campaigns get star power

Friday, 14 April , 2006, 19:45
New Delhi: Matinee idol Aamir Khan’s quest to know more about the plight of Narmada dam evacuees and victims of Bhopal gas tragedy today brought the two issues back among the headlines.
The star Khan, fresh from the success of the film `Rang De Basanti’ that deals with ordinary citizens tired of corruption taking on the high and mighty, met the protestors for more than two hours at their camping spot at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, listening to their problems and promising to support their cause.
“Last week when I was in Delhi, I passed by Jantar Mantar and was told about the two campaigns. I decided to come back and learn more about their problems,” he later told reporters.
Khan said he was pained upon learning of the sufferings of the dam displacees. “I don’t know about the technicalities involved in raising the height of the dam. What I do know is that farmers have been displaced from their land and they have lost their livelihood. Till the people who have already been displaced by the dam are not rehabilitated, the height of the dam should not be raised.”
About the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, he said the government should give them an audience as soon as possible.
He appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give immediate attention to these two issues. “If need be, I will even meet the Prime Minister. But I want the people who are at the receiving end and who know the problems first-hand to talk to him,” Khan said.
Khan’s visit to Jantar Mantar, along with the cast of the film as well as its director Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra ensured that the activists got the best media attention they have received so far, with an army of mediapersons descending on the spot to cover the event.
However, chaotic scenes were witnessed and security personnel had a tough time keeping things under control as a huge crowd gathered at the spot, which largely comprised autograph-seekers and fans wanting to see their favourite Bollywood star.
There was a near stampede as Khan moved out of the place, with the public and mediapersons falling over each other to get close to the actor.
Making matters worse for the policemen was Khan’s decision to walk it to the nearby Park Hotel, where he later addressed the media.
TV crews jostled with each other to get visuals of the movie star and a surprised public walked along to get a glimpse of Khan as he walked to the hotel.
Khan, however, said his support to the two campaigns should not be seen as indicative of any plans to enter politics. “I am raising my voice as a citizen of the country. I don’t want to enter politics,” he said.
Asked about protests against him in Gujarat for his support to the NBA, Khan said, “I don’t know why anybody should raise objections if I raise my voice for the rights of the farmers and the adivasis. I need to know on what basis they are objecting to it.”
To a question on how he correlated the film `Rang De Basanti’, which had a group of youngsters assassinating the Defence Minister, to the non-violent campaign of the NBA and the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors, Khan said, “The film does not promote violence as a solution. In the end, the youth in the film realise that violence is no good.”

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