Bollywood superstar Salman Khan today created a storm by describing Yakub Memon, the Mumbai blasts convict scheduled to be hanged on July 30, as innocent but was forced to withdraw his tweets and tender unconditional apology following outrage from political parties and social media.
Basking in the glory of his film Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s success, the 49-year-old Salman Khan posted about a dozen tweets from about 2 am early today in which he said the wrong man is being hung for the crimes of his brother Tiger Memon who was described by the actor as a ‘lomdi'(fox) who ran away.
“Get tiger(Tiger Memon), hang him. Parade him not his brother,” the actor had tweeted. Tiger Memon, who is believed to be in Pakistan, is one of the prime suspects in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts that killed 257 people and injured 1,400.
Salman Khan said he had been wanting to tweet about the issue for some days but was afraid.
“Been wanting to tweet Tis fr 3 days n was afraid to do so but it involves a man’s n family. Don’t hang brother hang tha lomdi (fox) who ran away,” he tweeted.
“1 innocent man killed is killing the humanity,” Salman Khan tweeted.
As his tweets sparked a furore and were dubbed as “objectionable” and also led to protests by BJP workers outside Salman Khan’s residence in suburban Bandra, BJP and ally Shiv Sena demanded cancellation of the actor’s bail in the 2002 hit-and-run case. A Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande even called Khan anti-national.
Ujjwal Nikam, the special prosecutor in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, took a strong exception to Salman Khan’s tweets in defence of Yakub Memon, and said the actor must withdraw them.
Nikam said, “Tweets made by Salman Khan are highly objectionable” and were an attempt to “undermine the image of the Indian Judiciary.”
TADA Judge P D Kode who sent Yakub Memon to the gallows, said Salman Khan’s tweets are his ‘opinion’ and that everyone has a right to his or her opinion as a right to freedom of speech but the question is how “relevant” it is.
Deleting his earlier tweets, Salman Khan said that his father Salim Khan called him and said he should retract his tweets as they had the potential to create “misunderstanding”.
Salim, a veteran Bollywood scriptwriter, is quoted as having said that his son is “ignorant” of the issue and people should not take him seriously, describing the star’s earlier remarks as ridiculous and meaningless.
“My dad called & said I should retract my tweets as they have the potential to create misunderstanding. I hereby retract them.
I would like to unconditionally apologise for any misunderstanding I may have created unintentionally,” he said in a series of tweets in the evening.
Salman Khan said he also strongly condemned those who are claiming his tweets are “anti-religious”, adding, “I have always said I respect all faiths and I always will.”
“I had tweeted that Tiger Memon should hang for his crimes and I stand by it. What i also said is that Yakub Memon should not hang for him. I have not said or implied that Yakub Memon is innocent. I have complete faith in the judicial system of our country.
“Many lives were lost in the Mumbai blasts. And I have repeatedly said the loss of one innocent life is equal to the loss of all humanity,” he said.
Salman Khan, who has 13.1 million followers on Twitter, also asked Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to send Tiger (Memon) to India if he was in his country.
“Sharif Saab ek darkhaust hai k agar yeh aap k mulkh mein hai toh plz iktila kar deejiyeh. Kidhar chupa hai tiger?..
“Tiger ki hi to kami hai India mein. Tiger ko Lao. Hum toh upne family par mar jaaaeen. Tiger tumhaara bhai kuch Dino mein tumhare liyeh. Get tiger hang him. Parade him not his brother,” Salman Khan said in a series of tweets.
Barring any last minute reprieve, 53-year-old Yakub Memon is due to be hanged on the same day as his birthday on July 30.
Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar met Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and submitted a letter seeking cancellation of bail granted to Salman Khan by the Bombay High Court. Making a similar demand, the Shiv Sena said he is anti-national.
Asked about Salman Khan’s earlier tweets, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Anyone and everyone in this country should respect the law of this country. No one is above the law of the country. The case has been going on in various courts of law for last 20 years.”
Congress said the Supreme Court verdict should be respected and all must “follow the course of the law”
Salman Khan’s friend and Congress leader Milind Deora tried to do some damage control. He tweeted that he had spoken to the actor last night and today and Salman Khan “doesn’t believe Yakub Memon isn’t guilty & was only spotlighting YM’s brother’s cowardice.”
Senior advocate Abha Singh criticised Khan for his remark on Yakub saying the actor’s statement is against the rule of law.
Criticising Salman Khan, a twitterati said, “Salman KHan is a Double Convicted Person..He should have confined to his Home..OK he has no shame…”
However, the social media had some tweets coming out in support of Salman Khan’s remarks on Yakub.
Shatrughan Sinha, actor and BJP MP, said, “Agar usne aisa kaha hai to aap uski bhaavnayon ko samajhiye (If he (Salman) has said so, then you must understand his feelings).”