Munnabhai beats the rap, mostly

sanjay-dutt.jpg Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt (star of the Munnabhai movies) has been acquitted on the terrorism charge that’s been on his head since 1993. The judge did find him guilty of illegal possession of arms, but it appears that charge is much less of a concern: though he may still do years of prison time, according to the New York Times, Dutt’s family and friends are celebrating.

Some background on the case is available at Wikipedia:

Mumbai was engulfed in riots as the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya in December 1992. The resulting riots claimed hundreds of lives and it is during this time that Sanjay Dutt claims to have asked his under world friends to provide him with a fire arm for protection. He however had not conveyed to police any threats to his life.

As per the CBI case filed in a TADA court Abu Salem and his men went to Dutt’s house on January 16, 1993 and gave him three AK-56 rifles, 25 hand grenades, one 9 mm pistol and cartridges. He returned two AK-56 rifles, hand grenades and cartridges to Hanif Kadawala and Samir Hingora but kept one AK-56 rifle with himself. (link)

Admittedly, the Wikipedia article is a bit slanted towards Dutt here, as it presumes that Dutt’s purpose in buying a weapon was self-defense. But the problem with this interpretation is Dutt’s supplier, Abu Salem, a notorious terrorist seen as one of the key organizers of the terrible 1993 blasts in Bombay. While it’s fair to imagine that a half-Muslim actor might want protection following some nasty communal riots (December 1992-January 1993), it’s also fair to speculate that he knew Abu Salem was up to something unsavory by the spring of 2003. Even if Sanjay Dutt wasn’t actively involved in the bombings that took place in March of 1993, isn’t it possible he knew something about the plans given his association with Abu Salem?

I guess I lean towards Dutt a bit in this case. While I do find Abu Salem’s involvement disturbing, it’s hard to imagine that Dutt would have been actively involved in terrorism given his famous parents and his status as an actor. That said, if this were the U.S., and Sanjay Dutt had bought an AK-56 rifle from, say, Mohammed Atta, he would probably be permanently locked up in Guantanamo Bay. (Sometimes, the Indian legal system seems more rational than the current American one.)

Dutt served 18 months in jail immediately following his arrest, but within a few years was back and more popular than ever in Bollywood. The 2000s have been the peak of his career, with the two superhit Munnabhai movies. As I recall from the comments to one of my earlier posts on Lage Rago Munnabhai, some people at least have been aware of the irony of an actor in a movie about “Gandhi-giri” being found guilty of possessing an assault rifle. Well, at least he has one thing in common with the Mahatma — they both did lots of jail time.

59 thoughts on “Munnabhai beats the rap, mostly

  1. …itÂ’s hard to imagine that Dutt would have been actively involved in terrorism given his famous parents and his status as an actor.

    I actually found it hard to imagine that he had to serve 18 months in jail. Quite impressed with the Indian courts.

  2. what i found interesting is that both dutt and salman khan chose to be visually very religious just before and during their court dates (but i’m not saying they aren’t religious in their out-of-court lives). both are half-muslim, half-hindu: khan chose to wear muslim headwear to his court date and dutt chose to wear obviously hindu markings to his. for public consumption or not important at all?

  3. The only thing Sanjay Dutt was guilty of is stupidity.

    I agree.

    More so, the so much funding for bollywood movies comes from underworld and black money (untaxed income), that he did not know what shit he was getting into or he was to too eager to please Abu Salem and Co.

    I think his parents being in the highest regard by Indians helps in damage control. Isn’t his sister a politican now?

  4. The poor guy was here in Calgary some time back shooting for a film and the local newspaper published a piece entitled, “Bollywood terror suspect in India stars in movie shooting in Calgary: Ottawa grants entry permit”. Sanjay was greatly disturbed by this and despite the community rallying behind him and organizing an event to show their support for him, he vowed that he would not return to Canada.

    … only in Alberta!

  5. AMardeep writes:While itÂ’s fair to imagine that a half-Muslim actor might want protection following some nasty communal riots

    Per this book, it was not his mother’s religion, but his (Hindu) father’s pleas to stop the violence and publicly blame the Shiv Sena for the riots, that resulted in threatening phone calls to the Dutt household. Incidentally, the book was made into a film which, was banned in India, but has been shown in intl film festivals.

    isnÂ’t it possible he knew something about the plans given his association with Abu Salem Per the same book, very few people were in the loop. The plot was hatched in Dubai with some Arabs, some Pakistanis and D-Company’s leadership.

    whose godan chose to wear muslim headwear to his court date and dutt chose to wear obviously hindu markings to his. for public consumption or not important at all?

    IIRC, per Indian law, you take the religion of your father. [Except in the controversial case of Rajiv & Sanjay Gandhi :-) ] That’s what my understanding is, anway. Could someone confirm?

  6. Isn’t his sister a politican now?

    Yes, Priya Dutt is a Member of Parliament from Mumbai constituency. She won the re-election after Sunil Dutt’s death.

  7. The only thing Sanjay Dutt was guilty of is stupidity.

    Once yes, but twice? He was taped in 2001 while conversing with Chota Shakeel from Shirdi on his mobile phone. The audio files used to be on rediff. I can’t find them. Anyway, Varsha Bhosle’s article on that subject can still be read here.

  8. “IIRC, per Indian law, you take the religion of your father. [Except in the controversial case of Rajiv & Sanjay Gandhi :-) ] That’s what my understanding is, anway. Could someone confirm?”

    quizman, really? thanks. didn’t know that. but then what about people like mallaika arora, whose father is hindu, if i understand correctly, and mother is christian, and who, i think, identifies as a christian or so she said in an article i read about her getting a much sought after apartment in a catholic-only building in mumbai. plus she had to ask for special dispensation for her muslim husband. so while a person can identify with whatever religion they want at a personal level, officially how could she then use her mother’s religion to get an apartment if the law is as you state? just curious. or does the law not relate to housing but only to how the govt. labels you?

  9. Quizman,

    Every person in Bollywood has to be buddy-buddy or at least good terms with mafia to survive personally and professionally. Read Mario Puzo’s Godfather for similar story in Hollywood.

    Isn’t it, Pretty Zinta was the only one who came forward to make court diposition regarding Mafia-Bollywood nexus recently. Everyone kept quiet. Everyone.

  10. Sometimes, the Indian legal system seems more rational than the current American one.)

    What do you mean by that? The Indian Legal system IS a rational one!

  11. Isn’t it, Pretty Zinta was the only one who came forward to make court diposition regarding Mafia-Bollywood nexus recently

    I’ll give you the benefit of doubt..she’s indeed pretty, but her name is Preity.

  12. Every person in Bollywood has to be buddy-buddy or at least good terms with mafia to survive personally and professionally.

    Are you implying that Ash is on good terms with the mafia? or, is your statement more of an urban legend now?

  13. Are you implying that Ash is on good terms with the mafia? or, is your statement more of an urban legend now?

    Probably, she is at some level for protection or through films funded by them. If not Bombay mafia, then Amar Singh and his ilk.

    Have you lived in India as a rich, celebrity person?

    Adobe’s CEO son was kidnapped/ and then found few days ago.

  14. Kush: Acting under threat of extortion is different from soliciting stories for films, storing weapons and doing deals.

    Btw, Aamir Khan also approached the cops when he received phone calls.

  15. Have you lived in India as a rich, celebrity person?

    Perhaps in a previous incarnation, but certainly not in the present one. It’s just hard to fathom that things like that (the crime world) still make the world go round in India. I could believe it 20 years ago, but one would’ve hoped that things would be beyond that today. Sorry, my original response should have conveyed more disbelief in the whole topic than in what you, Kush, were particularly saying.

  16. Bollywood and Mafia – From BBC

    “There’s hardly anybody in the film industry who has – at some stage of his or her career – not been contacted by the mafia either through telephone or some conduit,” said Mr Bhatt. “Who can dare to refuse to take a call from the underworld. And who will report such matters to the police and invite further trouble?” he told the BBC. But those associated with the Indian film industry say matters are not always as straightforward. Risky ventures A number of Bollywood stars and film producers are alleged to have close links with mafia dons. One such case involving a top Bollywood star – whose parents were even bigger names in Bollywood in the 1950s and 1960s – has been dragging on for nearly a decade. There are other cases where Bollywood stars are alleged to have used their underworld connections to bag coveted roles.

    This is the tip of the iceberg. As I said, even Hollywood has it, in this day and age, more refined and blatant as Bollywood. Glamor and organized crime cannot stay away from each other for long.

  17. While itÂ’s fair to imagine that a half-Muslim actor might want protection following some nasty communal riots (December 1992-January 1993)

    mamu is a chameleon – he is muslim when he wants to be and hindu the other – as you see in the picture, the dude has been styling the vermilion, hoping maybe for a little sympathy…

    The only thing Sanjay Dutt was guilty of is stupidity

    dutt is an idiot true, but for his charges, a non-celebrity would not have not had some of the privileges – and i tont really know how much celebrating sanjay can do really – he is still looking at minimum few years in jail

  18. dutt is an idiot true, but for his charges, a non-celebrity would not have not had some of the privileges

    I’m pretty sure there are quite a few non-celeberities who used their underworld connections to get guns. I beleive one of my uncles did (shot himself in the foot one night, too). You don’t really have Walmarts selling hunting equipment in Bombay. It’s just that a half-Muslim-half-Hindu, son of a celebrity politician, a B-actor makes for a convinient bakra for the authorities, who were eager to pull the limelight away from themselves. If Sanjay Dutt wasn’t a celebrity, he wouldn’t have been jailed. If both of Sanjay Dutt’s parents were of the same religion, he wouldn’t have been jailed.

  19. It’s been a while since I read it, but didn’t Suketu Mehta explore the nexus between Bollywood & the Mumbai underworld in Maximum City?

    I recall something about how Sanjay Dutt being bullied in school through childhood contributed to his identifying with thugs/bullies who’d protect him.

  20. I’m pretty sure there are quite a few non-celeberities who used their underworld connections to get guns. I beleive one of my uncles did (shot himself in the foot one night, too).

    a mutiny reader whose family has bombay bhai’s connections…. fascinating :-)

  21. a mutiny reader whose family has bombay bhai’s connections…. fascinating :-)

    Make that two. My high school reunion had equal number of bhais and cops — both groups maintaining friendly relations. All of them were identified as “Most likely to get in trouble” by our hapless teachers, many years ago.

  22. Have you lived in India as a rich, celebrity person?

    You dont have to be ultrarich or a celebrity. Just need to have a little more money than the rest and the jackals will come picking. Way before the economic boom, pops borrowed money from some shady characters. the business had severe ups and downs and he had problems paying money back. They charged usurious rates – above 20% interest and once down one cant recover. Bankruptcy wasnt an option. Counter-terror wasnt an option. My folks were crushed through daily gouging, ridicule, threats and extortion. I left home at 17 and didnt meet friends or family for eleven years – just rolling through north am wondering what the fuck i am doing. I dont think there is enough room for the rage i have. all i can Say is Indian society is Rand’s wet dream. fuck it. fuck it. fuck it. Die.

  23. I am beginning to feel a little intimidated by all the famous folks on here.

    I guess there exist two frames of thought:

    1. If you can pop a cap on me, I should be able to pop a cap on you! (rawr violence!)

    2. No guns = no physical violence. Maybe we should push for a return to pure hand-to-hand combat. Do you reckon wars would last less time if participants could only use fists as weapons?

    I am also impressed that Dutt was in jail for 18 months! Although India lacks the will to send some special agents diplomatic representatives to Dubai to seek out Abu Salem…

  24. Namitabh Bachchan, in case you missed it, Abu Salem is in prison in Mumbai. It’s Dawood Ibrahim they still can’t catch, for some reason.

  25. itÂ’s hard to imagine that Dutt would have been actively involved in terrorism given his famous parents and his status as an actor.

    Are you implying,’cuz he is an offspring of ‘matinee idols’ and himself an actor, one cannot conceive him of doing or participating in such nefarious activities?

    1.He was a crack pot, when he was young. Had to be re-habilitated. 2.Was he out of his mind dealing with Abu Salem & personally owning AK 56? 3.Have you listened to the audio tape that had the conversations of him & the D-company people? 4.He was caught red-handed, illegally hunting in Dandeli (deer & buck)

    I would say, being a public figure he carries more responsibility. And he should know what is being ‘discrete’! Given his stellar record in ‘hard to imagine cases’…..Give that ass ’10 yrs’

    Hard to imagine, Salman Khan could go on a joyride in his SUV over a dozen homeless sleeping people. Hard to imagine, Chota nawab saheb going on hunting in Rajasthan. Hard to imagine, the guy who got India the World Cup was involved in Match Fixing. Hard to imagine,……………..

  26. Sanjay Dutt is only 1/4 Muslim from his mothers side. His maternal grandmother was a muslim woman but lived as a Hindu after marrying Nargis’s father. He was always raised Hindu. I’ve never seen him use the other card. Has anyone? I’d be curious to know. Nonsense trivia, my father installed central air conditioning in their house some 20+ years ago. It was right after Nargis died and they had nearly daily pooja’s in the house and a pandit was there everyday.

  27. He was always raised Hindu. I’ve never seen him use the other card.

    I concur.

    Speaking of religious displays after run-ins with the legal system, Salman Khan, in an only-in-India-Manmohan-Desai-esq-fashion actually claimed that when he was in prison, he read the Koran and the Mahabharata (not the Gita, the “Mahabharata”) DAILY. :D

  28. he read the Koran and the Mahabharata (not the Gita, the “Mahabharata”) DAILY. :D

    You gotta love Bollywood. But you know what I admit I find the Mahabharat and the Ramayana far more entetaining and exciting than the Bhagavad Gita.

  29. The Dutt Brahmins are also known as Hussaini Brahmins. In undivided Punjab they were to be found all over that province but considered the Rawalpindi-Jhelum tract their original homeland. According to their family belief and legend their ancestor Rahab Dutt was settled in Arabia and had met Imam Hussain and became his admirer and supporter. He and his seven sons died fighting on the side of the Imam at the battle of Karbala. The Dutts had subsequently continued to observe the month of Muharram with great solemnity and took part in the various ceremonies related to the tragedy of Karbala, but remained Hindus. The following folk quote reflects this: Wah Dutt Sultan, Hindu ka dharm Musalman ka iman, Adha Hindu adha Musalman (Oh! Dutt the king With the religion of the Hindu And the faith of the Muslim Half Hindu, half Muslim)

    taken from a remembrance of Sunil Dutt by Ishtiaq Ahmed

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_7-6-2005_pg3_2

  30. The best punishment for rich spoilt brats like Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan, whose most unforgivable crime is their utter lack of talent, is repeated failure at the box office.

  31. i think dutt is a 1/8 muslim, 1/4 hindu, 1/8 athiest, 1/4 existentialist, 1/8 marxist, and 1/8 objectivist.

  32. You gotta love the excuses people make for everyone of Dutt’s and Salman Khan’s actions – Bachcha Hai, Naadan hai (childish behavior, innocent). These guys are pushing 45 and yet the excuse always is that they are childish.

    How much of the sympathy wave for Dutt is because of his Munnabhai films? Certainly a lot. And Salman, that kid can walk on water. He runs over people, abuses Ash (Oh NO! Insert tears here), yet people (majority/masses whatever) adore him and think he can do no wrong and he is being made an example of. Damn right!

    On the other hand, kids of politicians also do the same but nothing ever happens. Those familiar with the Telugu film industry will know that (I think) Chiranjeevi or maybe it was NTR’s son (superstars in Andhra) have also shot some guy dead and walked. Weren’t even arrested.

    Folks living in North America, don’t be so shocked. Oh Darling, Yeh hai India.

    On a personal note, I have met Sanjay and hung out and played cricket with his friends (film editors, writers — non-glamorous folks all) and of course they had the nicest things to say about him and insisted he was framed. I even tried to get some dirt by getting them drunk and stoned. Nope. They must really believe it.

    Beruni – thanks for the quote.

    Folks please don’t make a big deal of Dutt’s red tilak. If your life hung in the balance, you would go to the temple/church/mosque too and no one wipes out their Puja ka Prasad. Bad luck. I’m not a believer but I would read the Koran, Bible and Gita and Mahabharat and Ramayana (or maybe just watch it on TV) too if my life depended on it.

  33. The Dutt Brahmins are also known as Hussaini Brahmins…

    Fascinating, thanks. They remind me of the Meo in Rajasthan (another part-Hindu, part-Muslim people):

    “The Meos are now all Musalmans in name, but their village deities are the same as those of the Hindus, and they keep several Hindu fasts… Meos, in their customs, are half Hindu. The Meo places of worship are similar to those of their Hindu neighbours… As regards their own religion [Islam] the Meos are very ignorant. Few know the kalima, and fewer still the regular prayers, the seasons of which they entirely neglect.” — Yoginder Sikand

    http://frontierweekly.googlepages.com/jamat-39-7.pdf

  34. Folks living in North America, don’t be so shocked. Oh Darling, Yeh hai India.

    Celebrities are worshipped everywhere, even in North America. We’ve got Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson and a list of politicians that had loose hands and morals but were loved by the masses.

  35. Al Beruni (#35):

    Datts (Dutts) are a subgroup of Mohyal Brahmins. They do hail from Rawalpindi-Jhelum (now in Pakistan), but they are not the half-Hindu/half-Muslims that your source seems to think they are. True that prior to 1947 (after which they all fled to India), their culture (like that of most non-Muslims in that part of the world) was a composite of indigenous and Islamic influences. Post-1947 they’ve largely embraced their Hindu side. Here is more info on them:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohyal

  36. I fully agree with sillymidoff. It was a matter of time that Sanjay Dutt, was absolved of terrorism charges. It took so long, is another question..

  37. I see this is a failure of the Indian justice system. An AK56 for self defense? Besides, the fact that he was a transit point for the other ak56s & hand granades for Abu Salem should be enough to indict him in TADA. If Abu Salem is a terrorist,how isnt Sanjay Dutt one? Because there’s more than 140 crore of Bollywood investment riding on this chap.

  38. JOAt: You gotta love Bollywood. But you know what I admit I find the Mahabharat and the Ramayana far more entetaining and exciting than the Bhagavad Gita.

    That must be an inadvertant error. The Bhagavad Gita is not only an integral part of the Mahabharata, but also its most important part.

  39. Btw, to set the record straight, some comments seem to leave the misguided impression that Dutt was a washout/b-grade actor in 1993. He was not. He was at the peak of popularity, after rehabiliting himself and building his body to a sculpted level. He came back with a bang with Sadak, Sajan, and received top-billing for Khalnayak. IIRC, it was during the pre-release for Khalnayak that he was arrested. That it became a huge hit inspite of his arrest makes one wonder. On second thoughts, it did have choli ke peeche. :-) Incidentally, Khalnayak = villian.

    Btw, he and his father made up with Bal Thackeray who was calling for SD’s head (traitor, etc). After they had a famous closed door meeting, BT released a statement stating that the “kid” was all right and that his father was very patriotic and all this was a misunderstanding etc. There were many rumours in Mumbai during that time. The most popular ones being (a) Sunil Dutt would vacate his seat to a Shiv Sena MP (b) a major payoff was made to BT. Clearly, apart from the three of them and their close associates, no one else will know what actually transpired.

  40. Namitabh Bachchan, in case you missed it, Abu Salem is in prison in Mumbai. It’s Dawood Ibrahim they still can’t catch, for some reason.

    … and he is all set to contest the UP Assembly elections. This article mentions that he will be standing from the Mubarakpur constituency, but i also read somewhere that he will be competing from his hometown of Azamgarh.

  41. “Folks living in North America, don’t be so shocked. Oh Darling, Yeh hai India.”

    pssshhh… i am an american living in india and i have yet to be truly shocked at the society-level crime and mafia whatever, it is the same worldwide, absolutely the same. in this realm india is not unique at all…. in fact, i wonder why people keep trying to pull this “yeh hai india” when it is becoming absolutely apparent that this behavior goes on everywhere.

    one thing about india i will say is that people here don’t hide it. it’s in the open, people openly discuss corruption, people know exactly who is in who’s pockets and who sides with whomever… so instead of the west’s hype about the lack of corruption in the face of so much, i find india refreshing.

    and y’know, i know quite a few rich boys (cricketers, actors, fashion types…) who get into trouble from time to time and all you ever hear is “he was such a seeda boy, so good” — and i think a lot of it goes back to respect for the mother. no one is going to completely defame a boy on the face of his mother, their moms come from the high-up society and in respect to her i think that people refrain from badmouthing.

    but of course sometimes it borders on the absurd, really, i was at an event a few weeks ago and someone was literally telling me, “you should really meet manu sharma, he’s not what you think, such a decent well mannered-boy” — that’s the manu sharma who most probably killed jessica lall in cold blood because she refused him a drink… and people are still off in that world that these are well-mannered decent boys from good backgrounds…

    and don’t get me started about uttar pradesh, i have worked there on and off for more than 2 years and it’s becoming an absolute cesspool — bihar is a beacon of good health and development in comparison. abu salem will absolutely contest, and he will probably win, and it won’t be shocking because since mulayam singh came to power we have MLA’s dying (total is somewhere around 10-15 so far?) and another quarter of the MLA’s sitting in jail or waiting on their cases… UP is becoming an extreme outlier of india under the great leadership of mulayam singh and amar singh.