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Here’s How Akshay Evaded Making a Comment on the Unnao Case

“I speak when I feel the need to express myself,” he said when asked about his silence on the Unnao case.

Updated
Bollywood
3 min read
Akshay Kumar has avoided commenting on the recent car-truck collision that injured the Unnao gangrape survivor and her family.  
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In a recent interview, actor Akshay Kumar chose to avoid commenting when asked about the recent car-truck collision that critically injured the Unnao gangrape survivor and her lawyer Mahendra Singh and killed her two aunts. Mumbai Mirror pointed out that though he has been vocal on issues such as martyred jawans, farmers and Assam’s Kaziranga National Park after it had been ravaged by floods, he has remained silent on the Unnao case even as his wife Twinkle Khanna shared her views on the incident tweeting, “I pray that this poor girl gets the justice she deserves. This is horrific and clearly with the truck’s blackened number plate seems far from a coincidence #Unnao #justicemissinginaction”

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Going by his own comment, is Akshay then implying that the seeming abuse of power and the failure of the justice system in the Unnao case is not a worthy enough cause for him to address unless he has a film to promote?

Instead of taking the opportunity to offer solidarity with the survivor and her family, Akshay evaded the question with a strange defence. “I speak when I feel the need to express myself. And it’s not only about tweeting and speaking but doing something for a cause I believe in. My films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and PadMan are also a medium to express myself even if they bring in less investment than a Rowdy Rathore or Singh Is Kinng sequel from the distributors. I’m not blaming anyone, people are here to do business. If I can donate for a cause, I will. If I can address an issue through a film, I will do that too,” he told the publication.

Going by his own comment, is Akshay then implying that the apparent abuse of power and the failure of the justice system in the Unnao case is not a worthy enough cause for him to address unless he has a film to promote?

But true patriotism cannot extend to lauding one’s country’s achievements alone. It lies equally in holding its leaders accountable.

Here’s a brief look at the case: On 4 June, 2017, a girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district alleged that she had been raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar when she went to his home looking for a job only to go missing a week later. Almost a year later, her father was thrashed by Kuldeep Sengar’s brother, booked by the police and died in police custody. Shortly after the CBI arrested Kuldeep Sengar on 13 April, 2018 a witness in the case died and was buried without a post-mortem. Most recently, on 28 July, 2019, a truck collided with the survivor’s car in which she was travelling with her lawyer and her two aunts in Rai Bareli. While her aunts succumbed to their injuries, the lawyer and the survivor herself are critically injured.

Akshay isn’t wrong when he says, “It’s not only about tweeting and speaking but doing something for a cause I believe in.” But he also cannot selectively ignore the influence his stardom affords him. By making films such as Toilet Ek Prem Katha and PadMan, he seems to acknowledge this power by using the medium to address social issues. But are films the only way for him to get his message across? And is the Unnao case not a cause he believes in?

It’s no secret that Akshay takes his image of being a patriot very seriously both on screen (Airlift, Gold, Kesari and numerous television commercials) and off screen. His 2017 film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha was publicised as an extension of Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat initiative and even contained a scene that endorsed the PM’s demonetisation decision. He launched Bharat ke Veer, a website and app which allows people to donate for the armed forces and their families. He even signed up to interview Modi about his mango eating habits right before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

But true patriotism cannot extend to lauding one’s country’s achievements alone. It lies equally in holding its leaders accountable. If Akshay believes he can use his voice and stardom to shed light on India’s achievements, surely it could also be used to fight for justice in a broken system.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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