Both celebrities offered much-awaited solidarity to their colleagues, and were subjected to abuse on social media as a result.

Juhi Chawla and Virat KohliFile Photos/PTI
news Social Media Sunday, October 31, 2021 - 18:06

Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan spent almost a month in jail before he walked out on bail on Saturday, October 30. As the Bollywood superstar struggled for weeks to secure bail for his son, most prominent actors and filmmakers maintained a deafening silence over the issue, even as thousands of fans expressed love and solidarity for Shah Rukh Khan and many who had met him on occasion reminisced about his kindness. These fans and supporters also pondered over Shah Rukh Khan’s powerful friends’ seeming passiveness for days and questioned their loyalties. When the bail was finally granted, and actor Juhi Chawla stood as surety for her friend’s son’s release, they saw it as a heartwarming instance of a solid, old friend who came through despite political leanings.

But Juhi’s prior support for majoritarian views did not shield her from attacks that followed on social media after she helped secure bail for her friend's son. She was subject to name-calling and a wide range of baseless accusations, from seeking publicity to encouraging drug use. And now, it’s the turn of Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli. 

On Saturday, Kohli finally took a much-awaited firm stance in support of his teammate Mohammed Shami, who was flooded with abusive, hateful messages due to his faith, after India lost to Pakistan at a T20 World Cup cricket match last week. And despite his silence or tacit support to the BJP regime in matters of social injustice in the past, he hasn’t been spared either. Kohli is also now flooded with angry, abusive messages, accusing him of “enabling Pakistan’s narrative” and “demeaning Hindus.”

Read: Bollywood's silence will not save it

Kohli gave an emphatic response on Saturday when asked about the abuse Shami had faced. Referring to Shami’s abusers as “spineless trolls", he said, "Attacking someone over their religion is the most, I would say, pathetic thing that a human being can do.” This triggered angry reactions from many individuals, who denied that Hindus in India had trolled Shami for being Muslim, and instead blamed the abuse on “Pakistani propaganda” with a “malicious intent” to “malign Indian Hindus.” 

Read: Sachin Tendulkar backs Mohammad Shami after he faces online abuse

In deflecting responsibility for the abuse towards Shami, the responses to Kohli turned disrespectful too, from the use of an abusive hashtag to criticism of his performance as a cricketer and expressions of ill will for Kohli and his team.

His family has not been spared either. A few social media users took issue with their Halloween celebrations from photos his wife Anushka Sharma shared on Instagram, while bringing up the couple’s stand against crackers during Diwali last year. Some even questioned why Kohli didn’t offer support in a similar way to Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, when they were criticised in the past for flaunting dominant caste pride. 

When Juhi Chawla stood as surety for Aryan, his lawyer mentioned that she had known him since birth. Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla have been co-actors, business partners and friends for many years. But when she helped in securing bail for her friend’s son, her motives were questioned. She was accused of being involved in drug peddling herself, even as the charges against Aryan remain rather inconsistent, while some even called for her arrest if Aryan used drugs after his release. Many brought up Juhi Chawla's petition against introducing 5G technology in India, which was dismissed by the Delhi High Court, which said her lawsuit was done for “media publicity”. 

Juhi has been accused of being more concerned over 5G than drug consumption, and her support for Aryan has even been called a “publicity stunt.” Yet, in the midst of all the vilification, there are fans and supporters of both Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla acknowledging her act amid the outward inaction of others from the film industry, despite her political inclinations. 

Read: No drugs on him but behind bars: The inconsistencies in Aryan case probe