Aamir Khan’s Meeting Turkish First Lady Raises Storm in India

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Reminiscent of the controversy surrounding Shatrughan Sinha meeting Ziaul Haq in Islamabad in 1985

Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – The controversy over actor Aamir Khan’s meeting with the First lady of Turkey whose husband President Tayyip Erdogan is currently viewed as an ‘enemy of India’ because of his stance on Kashmir reminds me of a similar event of 1985 when actor Shatrughan Sinha met General Ziaul Haq, the military dictator of Pakistan, at his official residence in Islamabad. The actor was on a private visit to Karachi. One day he received a phone call from Gen. Zia who invited him for a meeting. Sinha happily obliged and flew to Islamabad.

But back in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party raised a big hue and cry branding him a traitor because he had been a guest of Pakistani president. Sinha had not joined politics by then and BJP leaders had no idea about his ideological leaning. Once he made this known and embraced the party all his sins washed away.

It’s unlikely that Aamir will ever be acceptable to the right-wing forces in India. His religion, plus his independent thinking are major irritants for his detractors. In 2015, he gave them a pretext to bash him when he sided with those returning awards because of alleged intolerance of BJP ministers and supporters. Aamir was told to go to Pakistan. Now again he has been advised to remain in Turkey because he has met the wife of a person who has consistently been opposing Indian government’s decision to revoking special status given to Kashmir through Article 370.

Aamir is currently in Turkey to shoot his film Lal Singh Chaddha. After the meeting, which took place on August 15, Emine Erdogan posted some of the photos with Aamir on Twitter with the following note: “I had the great pleasure of meeting @aamir_khan, the world-renowned Indian actor, filmmaker, and director, in Istanbul. I was happy to learn that Aamir decided to wrap up the shooting of his latest movie ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ in different parts of Turkey. I look forward to it!”

The post became viral in India drawing sharp reactions from hardliners, some of whom called for boycott of the film he is shooting while others recalling his previous ‘sins’ of not meeting Israeli leaders in Mumbai as well as putting his weight behind ‘anti-government forces’ during ‘intolerance’ debate.

“Did #AamirKhan met Turkey’s President, Erdogan and his family as an Actor or as Ambassador of somebody else? This meeting shouldn’t be taken as an ordinary meeting,” reads a Twitter post.

“Ordinary meeting with the first Lady of an enemy nation? We are shameless people, feigning ignorance to cover up our character,” reads another post.

One more tweet of disapproval:

“Aamir Khan who avoided meeting Benjamin Netanyahu, a friend of India, meets Turkish First Lady, Emine Erdogan at a time when Turkey is openly backing Pakistan and cornering India on Kashmir. Reportedly, Aamir sought the meeting. If true, he has made a very loud statement.”

Yet another tweet recalling his past actions:

“Didn’t he discuss how insecure his wife felt in India after Narendra Modi became PM in 2014? He felt India has become intolerant and there’s islqmophobia all over. Hope you invite the couple giving them permanently residence in Turkey. This way Aamir’s wife will feel at home.”

But there were some tweets which talked of historic relations between India and Turkey. Writes one Prashant:

“Trade with Turkey is at 10 billion $ vis a vis 4 billion approx with Israel. Relations with Turkey is from 1000 BC, one of the oldest. 9000 words are common between Hindi & Turkish language. Barring one two stand we are friendly nations.”

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