Saturday, May 30, 2009

Amitabh Bachchan Turns Down Australian Ph D

The news reads like this - Amitabh Bachchan has turned down a Ph D degree from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, on the wake of racist attacks on Indian students in Australia.

In a statement on his blog, Mr. Bachchan said :

"I have been witnessing, with great dismay and shock, the recent violent attacks on Indian students in Australia, on the electronic media the entire day. I mean no disrespect to the institution that honours me, but under the present circumstances, where citizens of my own country are subjected to such acts of inhuman horror, my conscience does not permit me to accept this decoration from a country that perpetrates such indignity to my fellow countrymen."

This is indeed a grand gesture, sure to get some media attention. But in my view, a rather meaningless, and possibly a dangerous one. Obviously, the racist attacks are obnoxious, and need to be nipped in the bud by Australian authorities. However, this should not elicit, at least at this stage when such attacks are acts by violent individuals and we have no evidence of any administration support or encouragement, such grandstanding. In my opinion, Mr. Bachchan did precisely the wrong thing by turning the Ph D down.

Let me explain. The Honorary Ph D conferred upon Mr. Bachchan was meant to be a mark of inter-cultural bonding, which must not have happened without the active participation of the Indian diaspora in Australia. World over, as the economic gloom prompts a culture of unreason and chauvinism, various Asian Diasporas in different countries need to bond together more than ever, more within themselves and with the host country. Mr. Bachchan going over to Brisbane and accepting an honorary Ph D, alongside talking about his long and illustrious career in mass entertainment, would have shone the limelight on Indian cinema, modern India and the Indian diaspora in Australia. By turning down the Ph D, Mr. Bachchan will please the audience at home, but put the Indians in Australia at the edge of the culture divide.

Also, Mr. Bachchan is no ordinary man, and his act is sure to have some resonance in India. This will create greater awareness of problems in Australia - which is welcome - but discourage Indian students and professionals to look at Australia as a possible location for study, work and investment. Besides, by refusing a degree from an University, Mr. Bachchan paints all Australians as one, a serious mistake, and treats the miscreants as representatives of the country. This is indeed the wrong view he should preach - every country has their share of thugs and we must be responsible in our emotions not to view the countries through the prism of their miscreants.

This time, as in the past, Mr. Bachchan, an iconic figure in Indian cinema, proved himself to be rather naive in the social affairs. I recall his 'I slept with a revolver under my pillow' in the aftermath of Mumbai 26/11, and his rather indiscreet thumbs up to the spoof passed under the name of Lord Macaulay. But then, he is who he is - a matinee idol and role model in India. While he indeed is entitled to his private opinion, one would hope that he realize what effect he has on other people, and that he will behave in a more discerning and responsible manner in the days to come.

4 comments:

rik said...

Amitabh Bachchan , me , you or anybody else is not entitled to be right always , i am sure if he had accepted the Honour he would have invited more harsh criticism ,whatever he would have chosen he was doomed to be criticised & ultimately publicised.So when someone says he did it for publicity I pray to god to shower his kind mercy on their thinking organic machines.
Talking about Australia , me being a cricket fanatic, i clearly remember Indian cricket team's tour to Australia, comments & controversies involving Australian players , the crowd behaviour against Bhajji, etc...
No country in the World has only good or only bad people , but if bad people are supported by the good ones by their being silent & the Local Administration & Police don't consider the reality as such then even the good people( REALLY WILL THEY BE ?)will have to face the music.

Anonymous said...

it's starting to piss me off the flak white australia is taking from indians over this whole affair.

most of these attacks are perpetrated by AFRICANS AND ARAB MUSLIMS in australia yet indians are quick to jump on the "evil white man" bandwagon.

indians are welcome in australia and are a preferred immigrant source because they are educated, hard working and respectful of our country. unlike muslims and africans. yet they are quick to be RACIST against white people and slander us when these offences are committed by ethnic minorities who also target white people.

the problem is white people are not allowed to complain about this abuse for fear of being branded racist. you'd think india would be more sympathetic because they have their own muslim problem (like mumbai) but they would rather scream at white people without the facts than learn the real story.

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. While I clearly do not agree with Mr. Bachchan about his turning down the Ph D, it will be difficult for me to buy the opinion that the immigrants - 'muslims and blacks' - are only responsible for this violence and the white Australians have nothing to do with it. First, this is evidently wrong and the current arrests show a different picture. Besides, while we would not want to blame all Australians for these mindless acts, the racism is very real in the white societies and it does us no favour to deny it. We have a long way to go to build a civilized society; the earlier we start accepting the gaps, the sooner we shall get there.

Anonymous said...

Some anynomous writer here has mentioned blacks and muslims? By Muslims, i would understand yea Muslim people from different countries of the world such as Afg, turkey, Arab, pk etc. but what you do mean by blacks? i would assume indians becuase its most of indians in australia who are considered and look blacks

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