Shah Rukh Khan's parliament 'eulogy' holds 'subversive' message for inclusion and democracy
SRK's tweet congratulating the nation on the new parliament building was accompanied by a video shared by the PM, to which Khan added his voiceover (like many citizens responding to the PM's call)
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan (aka SRK) has called the new parliament building inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi "a magnificent home for the people who uphold our constitution" in a tweet.
A lot of BJP and Modi supporters were jubilant at the uber-popular actor's apparent support for 'Modi-ji's' vision on a day that saw 20 Opposition political parties boycotting the inuaguration ceremony and deeming it unconstitutional and when a large section of the public on social media were livid over the manhandling of (especially women) wrestlers taking their month-plus protest towards parliament.
The inauguration had been criticised by a sizeable section of political parties and civil society alike for snubbing President Droupadi Murmu, giving the ceremony a specific religious colour as well as treating the event as a 'coronation' for the prime minister with the much-debated 'sengol' or sceptre being saluted and then handed to him.
However, those ecstatic — or disappointed, or even angry — over SRK's seeming 'endorsement' might not have read too deeply between the lines, or not listened too attentively.
"What a magnificent new home for the people who uphold our Constitution, represent every citizen of this great Nation and protect the diversity of her one People, Narendra Modi ji. A new Parliament building for a New India but with the age old dream of Glory for India. Jai Hind!" Shah Rukh Khan's tweet reads.
It is accompanied by a video of the new parliament building to which Khan has lent his voice. He has called it "the new home of our hopes. A home for the custodians of our Constitution, where 140 crore Indians are one family".
And this is where the addressee seems to go beyond the PM to the general public and indeed to all office-bearers within the parliamentary system — and paint a picture even curiously reminiscent of some things the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, had said over the years. Yes, the same Nehru that Modi and his supporters seem to juxtapose the BJP government's choices and actions against.
It is here that Khan has illustrated how the new parliament should function: "This new house should be so big that it can have space for every province, state, village, city, every corner of the country," he says, calling up a vision of an egalitarian and inclusive democracy.
He calls for the arms of 'this house' — and is speaking of the new parliament building now, or of the Parliament? — to be so wide that every caste and race of the country, every religion is loved. He calls for a vision so deep that it can see and know every citizen of the country and recognize their problems. SRK's voiceover calls for 'faith', yes — but in the motto of satyamev jayate (victory to truth) and not in a vision of a Hindu rashtra. "The elephant, horse and lion, the pillar with the ashok chakra should be our history, and not just a mere logo," Khan says in the voiceover.
He goes on to liken Parliament to the soul of the body that is the nation, and prays for the health of that "soul of democracy" to be furthered in this new home. He wishes that this new building may continue to foster liberty, fraternity and equality for ages to come — is this perhaps a warning of a wavering vision? He hopes that the new abode of democracy will usher in a new age renowned for its scientific temper and empathy for all — an idea curiously reminiscent of Nehru's vision for India, so similar that even the words are almost an echo. What he does hail at the end: "A new parliament for a new India but with the same age-old dream — the glory of India, of our nation."
And he signs off with a "Jai Hind! (Victory to India!)"
Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded positively to the video. “Beautifully expressed!” the PM wrote. “The new Parliament building is a symbol of democratic strength and progress. It blends tradition with modernity.” But interestingly, nowhere in the voiceover has Khan spoken of this modernity.
It would seem many in the Opposition too took the voiceover and the tweet at face value and read it superficially too — and felt let down by their hero, by a voice widely regarded as one of Bollywood's most influential.
An Indian National Congress leader and the party's social media chairperson for Uttar Pradesh Pankhuri Pathak criticised Khan's tweet, saying, "You have let down so many people who stood by you when your son was wrongly targeted and jailed, when boycott calls were issued against your movies, when you were targeted because of your religion. This says loud and clear that you deserved what they did to you. Sorry, but you are no King. No more."
National spokesperson for the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) Clyde Crasto said, "Now that Shahrukh Khan has spoken in favour of the New Parliament building, we will soon see BJP Maharashtra leaders genuflecting in front of him and not calling for a ban on his films."
We share below a transcript as well a translation into English of the entire voiceover for our readers to judge for themselves.
What exactly is Khan saying, and is he truly congratulatory — or perhaps a tad (subversively) cautionary about the narrative spun around this new building and the government that pushed it through?
Transcript of SRK's voiceover in Hindi
"देश का नया संसद भवन हमारी उम्मीदों का नया घर है। हमारे संविधान को संभालने वालों के लिए एक ऐसा घर जहां 140 करोड़ हिंदुस्तानी एक परिवार हैं। यह नया घर इतना बड़ा हो कि इसमें देश के हर प्रांत, प्रदेश, गांव, शहर, कोने-कोने के लिए जगह बन सके। इस घर की बाहें इतनी चौड़ी हों कि देश की हर जाति-प्रजाति, हर धर्म को प्यार कर सके। इसकी नजर इतनी गहरी हो कि देश के हर नागरिक को देख सके, जान सके। उनकी समस्याओं को पहचान सके। यहां सत्यमेव जयते का नारा, स्लोगन नहीं, विश्वास हो। यहां अशोक चक्र का हाथी, घोड़ा, शेर, खंभा, लोगों नहीं, हमारा इतिहास हो।
कहा जाता है कि किसी देश का संसद देश के लिए उतना ही अहम जितना कि शरीर के लिए आत्मा...मेरी विनम्र प्रार्थना है कि लोकतंत्र की आत्मा अपने नए घर में जीवंत रहे, और आने वाले युगों के लिए स्वतंत्रता, बंधुत्व और समानता को बढ़ावा देना जारी रहे। लोकतंत्र का यह नया घर एक नए युग का निर्माण करे जो अपने वैज्ञानिक स्वभाव और सभी के लिए सहानुभूति के लिए प्रसिद्ध हो। नए भारत के लिए एक संसद भवन नया है लेकिन इसके सपने वही हैं जो भारत के पुराने गौरव के साथ जुड़े हैं। जयहिंद।"
Translation in English
The new Parliament building is home to our hopes. A home for 140 crore Indians and their representatives who are there to protect the Constitution. May this new home be so large so as to have enough space to represent every region, state, villages and towns, for every nook and corner of this land. May this home be large enough to embrace and bless all castes, creeds and religion. May this home have the vision to see and identify the pain and problems of citizens. May the national motto Satyameva Jayate not remain just a slogan here but a conviction. May the pillars, the wheel and the animal motifs on the Ashoka Chakra not remain just motifs but narrate our history.
It is said that the Parliament is as important to a democracy as the soul is to the human being. I wish the soul of democracy remains alive in this abode and keep promoting equality, fraternity and freedom. Let this new abode of our democracy lead to a new era imbued with scientific temperament and empathy. This building may well be new but the dreams it represents reflects the glory that was India.