Aamir Khan under fire over China, Turkey links

NEW DELHI • Muslim Bollywood star Aamir Khan has long been a hate figure for India’s Hindu far-right, but now they have a new line of attack — his massive popularity in China.

Khan, 55, is a brand ambassador for Chinese smartphone maker, Vivo Communication Technology Co Ltd, and is also major draw on the mainland with films such as “Dangal” (2016). He even has 1.16 million followers on China’s Weibo.

But this week, the hardline Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Hindu group put the actor on the cover of its magazine, calling him “The Dragon’s favourite Khan”, a reference to China.

Also criticising Khan’s ties with Turkey — which has slammed India over Kashmir — the article said he was “forging friendships with those that are considered enemies of India”.

“Aamir seems to be the favourite of the Chinese Communist Party system and the fact his movies are doing so well is an indication that he is being promoted by the Chinese state,” the editor of the weekly Hitesh Shankar told a news website.

Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s government has fanned growing hostility to China follow- ing a deadly clash on their disputed Himalayan border in June.

The militaristic RSS is the ideological parent of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the PM — a devout Hindu — is a lifelong member.

Since Modi came to power in 2014, the BJP government has enacted a number of policies that have raised fears of marginalisation among India’s 200-mil- lion-strong Muslim minority.

Bollywood has a long tradition of Muslim movie stars and the so-called three Khans — Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh — have dominated box offices for the last three decades.

But Aamir Khan stands out because of his outspokenness — although he has also been photographed meeting Modi.

He is one of Bollywood’s most bankable leading men and has appeared in dozens of films — often playing Hindu or Sikh heroes. He has an enormous fan club, which includes millions of Hindus. —AFP