A star like Shah Rukh Khan cannot go to a public place and expect to be treated like your average Joe. No, people are going to throng the place in order to catch a glimpse of the superstar. He is no stranger to this; people camp for hours outside his home Mannat in Mumbai, hoping to see him as he comes and goes. Sometimes the star comes out to wave to his adoring fans. So it is strange, indeed downright irresponsible, for him to have thought that his arrival on the August Kranti Express on a crowded Vadodara railway platform would be nothing more than a nice jolly and a jaunt to promote his film Raees. The huge crowd which gathered on the platform created a stampede in which person has died. The platform was teeming with fans of the actor when he arrived on board the August Kranti Express on Monday. Shah Rukh did not get off the train but waved to the crowds and asked them to watch the film from a loudspeaker. Which we are sure was nice and comfortable for him but not so for the fans who had gathered.
Given that he has a responsibility to his fans, whom he often thanks for his fame and fortune, he should have known better than to use a train which is meant for public transport to promote his film. Not only does this cause huge inconvenience to those who need to travel and may not be die-hard fans of the star, the notoriously crowded platforms are tailor-made for disaster when such huge crowds gather.
The visit was highly publicised on social media ensuring huge crowds. Stars like Shah Rukh Khan have no business putting their fans or the public in harm’s way like this. Some will argue that it is the responsibility of the railway authorities and the police to ensure the safety of the fans and others on the platform. But that would be to let Shah Rukh off lightly. If he was so keen to promote his film, he should have hired and paid for a venue like a stadium where he could address his fans. In the past too, some stars have gone into crowded areas only to face a near stampede from which the police have had to rescue them.
No one has the right to use a public service vehicle like a train to promote a film, this should have been done on Shah Rukh’s own steam and on his own dime. Several fans were injured in the stampede. We hope that this has been a signal lesson to him that the promotion of his films should not be at the cost of the safety of his fans and indeed the public. Public places cannot be used for private ends and that too at risk to people.
Shah Rukh Khan is a role model for many young people. By using a public space and service for his personal ends, he is sending out a message that such misuse is acceptable, even desirable. As it is, we Indians are no great respecters of public spaces as seen by our conduct in these. He may think, as he said, that travelling in public transport is a good way to meet fans. But surely not at such risk to them. Fans no doubt want to meet their heroes but we cannot imagine that anyone would want to lose their life or limb in the process. This practice of using public spaces by celebrities for their private ends must stop so that another tragedy of this sort is prevented.