Manufacturing Consent – for the pardon of Sanjay Dutt | Harini Calamur

Manufacturing Consent – for the pardon of Sanjay Dutt

Ajmal Kasab had just turned 21 when he and his fellow band of terrorists attacked India on 26 November 2008. He was 18, when he began his descent into crime and terror.

The youngest unnamed accused in the horrific Delhi gangrape case was just a shade under 18, when he participated, willingly, in the rape and murder of a young physiotherapist. He was supposedly the most brutal of all the rapists on the bus, that fateful night. While the system calls him a ‘juvenile’ and in all likelihood will set him free, there is general revulsion at the thought of someone like him being free to walk around to commit the same crime again.

Both Kasab and the unnamed juvenile were born in poor families, grew up in a world where others took to petty and not-so-petty crimes, and were exposed to influences that could lead them astray – yet most people do not use their age, their background or reduced circumstances as an excuse for their horrific behavior.

Sanjay Dutt was 33 years old when the Mumbai Police discovered that “the actor had acquired AK-56s from Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Anees Ibrahim, and had even had one destroyed after the serial blasts in Bombay that left 257 people dead.”

Yet it seems like a large part of the film and political fraternity are calling for him to be pardoned. Here is a man who willingly took possession of arms that would be used against his fellow citizens. He tried to cover this up, and yet people are calling for his pardon. There is a very sophisticated publicity exercise in place that wants to make Dutt seem like a poor little lost boy, entrapped by circumstances and an unwilling participant in an escapade that went wrong. The truth is different. He was a grown up, who knew what he was doing, and kept quiet when a single phone call (even an anonymous one) could have saved over 250 lives.

So, what makes Sanjay Dutt special?

Born to Bollywood nobility – his mother was Nargis, father Sunil Dutt – brought up in the lap of privilege and wealth, Sanjay Dutt could have been anyone. He was given a dream film debut by his father in the film Rocky, he worked with the biggest directors in Bollywood, his friends were the A-list in tinsel town, fans loved him, the box office welcomed him and he had the world at his feet. You would think that a man born into such a background and who achieved success would do something useful and meaningful with his life. He didn’t. His early career in Bollywood was marked by absences, late coming and general bad behavior. So much so that he began losing out roles to relatively unknown actors (Sanjay Dutt was the first choice for the film Hero, that later propelled Jackie Shroff to stardom. The story goes that Subhash Ghai was so put off with the unprofessional behavior of Sanjay Dutt that he had him replaced). All this changed with the 1993 Mumbai blasts and the subsequent arrest of Sanjay Dutt under TADA.

Unlike the West where people, even stars, are penalised for their bad behavior, India seems to love its bad boys. Robert Downie Jr, Mel Gibson, and a host of others have lost roles, lost endorsements when they got embroiled in controversy. Mel Gibson for being a drunk racist, Downie Jr for a drug habit that led him to serve jail time – there was punishment beyond what the legal system mandated. There was ostracisation and a loss in earnings. But over here, the moment a star gets into trouble, he becomes more salable. Sanjay Dutt got better roles after his arrest,  and he is not the only one. It is almost as though advertisers and film financiers believe that sleaze will sell.

Today, when people who should know better are appealing the Governor to pardon Sanjay Dutt, they need to understand that they are giving their blessing to delinquency, to irresponsibility, to acting in an anti-social manner and a support of terror.

“He is a nice man” goes the refrain. How many nice people do you know who store automatic weapons and grenades capable of causing carnage? Then there is the refrain that says he was too young. At 33? When leaders like Digvijaya Singh put out statements that say, “Sanjay Dutt is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist. Sanjay Dutt, at a young age, in the atmosphere of that time, thought that perhaps the way Sunil Dutt had been raising his voice against communalism and favoured the minorities, then perhaps he could be attacked,” they are making excuses for terror.

What do you say to all those people who are minorities, or favour minority rights and would never think of going down the path of violence or terror? Indeed, what do you tell people whose family members have been arrested and convicted for terror – that it is excusable because they thought they were in danger? Is this the same approach to dealing with Maoists who believe that the only way they can get heard by the State is by committing acts of terror?

The last excuse is that Nargis and Sunil Dutt were patriots and deserve better. The head of the Press Council of India and former Supreme Court judge Markanday Katju says, on why Sanjay Dutt deserves a pardon: “His parents Sunil Dutt and Nargis worked for the good of society and the nation. Sunil Dutt and Nargis often went to border areas to give moral support to our brave jawans and did other social work for the society.”

This is an easy statement to agree with. Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt did deserve better, and their son let them down. Not the system. It is because he is their son that he is only facing just 5 years in prison, not a lifetime. Imagine if an ordinary boy named Sanjay Dutt, whose parents were not popular film stars, had been found with the weapons cache. Would the outcry be the same?

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)

Please Note: Tehelka doesn't have regulatory control over messages appearing on social media including Facebook and Twitter. Tehelka also doesn't subscribe to any views or comments by the readers.

  • http://Website dhi

    what.. now you are trying to pour some sympathy on that rapist.. y to mention that disgusting creature just remove his part

    • http://Website L.CHANDRASEKHARAN IYER

      As Mr. Sanjay dutt already got punished for victimthen why again in prissener it is nat fare. he should get releif from

  • http://Website Satya Narayana

    Well-written piece. So very true. Our ruling class sucks.

  • http://Website Alok

    Or is it because both the politicians and the tinseltown share links with the underworld….

    Well written Harini..

  • http://Website Vineet

    Good article. The bollywood supporting him is understandable since they have their money riding on him and they are his friends. But the political class support is just to gain popularity in the eyes of Sanjubaba’s fans.
    We can agree that he is a changed man (banking on the comments from his close associates). But we need to send strong messages in society that nobody is above Law and there is no escape route for our crimes.
    I will however pray that God grants him courage to face the sentence.

  • SanchezKelsey

    Cars and houses are not cheap and not everyone can buy it. Nevertheless, loans are invented to support people in such situations.

  • http://Website Jagannathan Sathyamoorthy

    Commendable, a sane voice from within the film fraternity.

  • sam

    Though he is a flim celebrity n born to a bollywood nobility people should not concern his background but the crime n disaster he has caused to the nation. Law n order should be equal to every human being first comes the character then the profession.

  • http://Website Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeres_Johnny

    The problem with Harini’s column (and opinion), as is the problem with many other columns and opinions on the subject, is that you can’ttell the story of the 1993 bomb blasts w3ithout including the story of the Babri Majid’s demolition as well as the riots that followed in BOMBAY. Many people conveniently bring up the Godhra riots when they want to put Modi down, but they speak selectively of the 1993 riots, bringing them up only on occasion when they want to put certain political sections down. The blasts’ story can’t be separated from the riots. People who are young, who don’t know what the atmosphere was like in Bombay 20 years ago, should refrain from having opinions about the blasts unless they speak to a credible city-dweller of that time. Otherwise, your opinion would be based on incomplete facts and ignorance of circumstances. Be against Dutt, by all means, but be against him if and only if you know the whole story.

  • http://Website Pasupathinath

    Congrats Harini! You have done well.

  • http://Website Rajat

    The whole political & social class that is trying to evoke sympathy & aiming for a pardon for Sanjay Dutt is only giving proof of their insanity in each word they utter.

  • http://Website Tapas Kanti Mitra

    It is an excellent logical writing. I congratulate Harini. Probably we could not look at all this angles simultaneously.

  • http://Website vishwanath

    Most sensible analysis by Harini. May God bless her.

  • http://Website siddique

    Implimentation of Shrikrishna commision report on riots preciding blasts should not be forgotten if the society loves justice.

  • http://Website Hemant Kumar

    Every one is equal in the eyes of law. There should not be any discrimination in that front. When Sajay Dutt himself as said that he does not intend to seek pardon nor petition for it then why there should be so much clamour or it.Why should the media waste time on that and not take up more important issues concerning the general mass (Aam Admi).
    Similarly, the PCI chairman who is advocating for pardoning of Sanjay should also see that for last 14 years the people working in the media have not got a wage hike and the management has entangled the Weage Board notification in Supreme Court denying the rightful pay hike for the media workers. But Justice Katju has not taken their cause being the PCI chairman.Will he sday something on this

  • http://Website K. L. Chachra

    Sanjay deserves no pardon for the anti-social and anti-national act that he indulged himself in.

  • http://Website Shiela Rajan

    Sanjay Dutt – the less said about his past the better. He was a spoilt brat – into drugs – had a few failed marriages – used the power and money of his parents for his waywardness. He was in his early 30s when he committed this crime. Had he got in touch with the authorities immediately, probably this incident would not have occurred at all. Therefore, he is definitely guilty and should be punished and the law of the land should apply to him and all the others involved.

    Now I have two suggestions:

    1. Justice delayed is justice denied – applies to the victims. They have suffered – both mentally, physically and financially. I am sure, no body would have been amply compensated by the authorities concerned.

    There are about 1000 people either dead or injured. Let the moneyed and the powerful like Sanjay Dutt / Dawood Ibrahim and the likes pay 10 crores each to the members of the families who have lost their dear ones and those who have been injured. Confinement in Jails should not be the only punishment. They should be made to pay in cash also for their crimes.

    2. Justice delayed is Justice denied – applies to the convicts also.

    If the Law Agencies take 20 years to decide such an important case – why should they go Scot free. They should also be punished – all those concerned should be charged with negligence of duty and apply suitable fines. Say Rs. 10 lakhs each to be paid by the Judges / Lawyers / Prosecuters etc. Make a Corpus Account and give to the victims. Why should the funds go from the Governments account or from the Taxpayers money?

    Again all those charged in this case must have really suffered mentally – waiting for the pronouncement of punishment! Therefore, may be, all those who have been given less than 20 years of punishment should be left free as they have already more than served the sentence.

    The Legal Department is too slow in according justice. This may make the legal Department more accountable.

    Shiela Rajan