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Tiger Zinda Hai row: Salman’s remark triggers vandalism in Rajasthan

Salman Khan's allegedly insulting remark irked some people of the Valmiki community. An old video of actress Shilpa Shetty making similar remarks also landed her in trouble.

Photo: Shutterbugs images

Keyur Seta

The Salman Khan-starrer Tiger Zinda Hai has become the latest Hindi film to be the target of a group's ire.

A casteist remark made thoughtlessly by the lead actor in a TV interview irked people from the Valmiki community who proceeded to vandalize a few theatres in Jaipur that were to show the film today. The protestors also tore up and burnt posters of Khan and the film.

The incidents took place at Ankur and Rajmandir cinemas in the Rajasthan capital. Similar incidents were reported from other cities of the state like Bikaner and Kota and also from Baroda in neighbouring Gujarat. This ensured that several morning shows had to be cancelled or postponed. A number of people were arrested by police in this connection.

Speaking to Cinestaan.com, Govind Sharma, manager of Ankur cinema, said the incident occurred much before the first show began at noon. “Between 9am and 10am, when I was still at home, 60-70 people from the Valmiki samaj arrived, climbed the railing and vandalized the theatre," he said. "The loss has been very high.”

However, no show was cancelled at Ankur. “Because of the timely cooperation from the police we were able to start the noon show, though it was started at 1pm," Sharma said. "The police protection is still there. None of the shows have been cancelled. A wrong message is being circulated in the public that shows aren’t happening.”

Meanwhile, a group called the Valmiki Samaj Action Committee posted a video of its members vandalizing Rajmandir.

The anger was sparked by Salman Khan, during the interview, using the term ‘bhangi’ in a pejorative manner. The term was earlier commonly used to describe a community that was restricted to the so-called menial tasks of cleaning toilets, sweeping and scavenging. The community now prefers to use the term Balmiki or Valmiki as its name.

While discussing his inability to perform certain dance steps, Khan said, “[Those steps] look good on some. Some people don’t have the body language to carry off some stuff. If I am given some steps, I would be like, ‘main toh bhangi lag raha hoon yaar isme [I look like a bhangi trying to perform these moves]'.”

Khan isn’t the only actor to have drawn the ire of the community. An earlier interview of actress Shilpa Shetty has also resurfaced and angered the community. The video has her saying, “I look like a bhangi at home.”

Earlier in the week, the Human Rights Law Network and the Bhim Army Valmiki Samaj had lodged a first information report (FIR) against Khan and Shetty for allegedly hurting sentiments of people from the scheduled caste.

Here are Salman Khan and Shilpa Shetty making the casual, unthinking comments that outraged the community: