The irrepressible Shatrughan Sinha has stood by Sanjay Dutt for the last 20 years of the latter's struggle for freedom. And now even though Sinha's parent-party - BJP - stands by the honourable Supreme Court's decision to send Dutt back to jail, Sinha is all for leniency towards Dutt.
Speaking exclusively, Sinha said, "Whatever I am today as a politician and actor, I've learnt from Sanjay's father Sunil Dutt Saab. He has been a constant source of inspiration. And Sunil Dutt Saab's son is very close to me. I've struggled with him for all these years as he has been fighting for his freedom. It pains me to see Sanjay standing where he is right now. I've been with him in this battle to prove his innocence for 20 years."
The forthright politician-actor recalls, "The first time that he went to jail, I was the only one there with his father, the noble Sunil Dutt Saab, when Sanjay got bail. I was with Sanjay when he went to meet Balasaheb Thackeray to put forward his defense. I've supported his craving for freedom because I believe Sanjay is not a terrorist."
Sinha finds the current wave of empathy for Sanjay Dutt in the entertainment industry very ironical. "I want to ask those who are shedding crocodile tears for Sanjay Dutt, trying to show how aggrieved and concerned they are about his predicament, where were you all these years when Sanjay lived in the fear of losing his freedom? I am sure these opportunists would soon disappear. I've been an admirer of Sanjay's father Sunil Dutt Saab for a very long time. His anti-drugs and anti-tobacco campaign were very dear to my heart. Whatever I've learnt about remaining honest and conscientious in politics has come to me from Dutt Saab. It breaks my heart to see his family suffer so much."
At this time Sinha's main concern is for Dutt's family and children. "My heart truly weeps for Sanjay's lovely wife Maanyata and his beautiful children. I know Sanjay is putting up a very brave front. But he is broken from inside and worried for his family. The family has suffered with Sanjay all these years."
In a move that could earn him his political party BJP's wrath, Sinha defends Dutt's right to remain outside prison. "I am not saying, forgive him. Nor do I question the honourable Supreme Court's judgment .We must respect the law of the land. However, my humble submission is that Sanjay has suffered enough for his folly. He is not a terrorist. Just a person who happened to fall into wrong company. He may have been connected with wrong elements. But he's a good soul. Look at his track record. His role as Munnabhai has influenced such a wide range of people to adopt a Gandhain love towards humanity. I wish there was some way he would not have to face prison. I see a glimmer of hope. Justice Katju has asked the governor of Maharashtra to pardon Sanjay. I respect Justice Katju's opinion and I am with him on this."
As for the question of why pardon and leniency for Sanjay Dutt when so many have suffered during terror attacks, Sinha counters, "The naysayers may turn around and ask me , 'What about the victims of the 1993 bomb blast?' I say, let me know if there are other people who have suffered. I am willing to take up their cause. Sanju is a part of my film fraternity. He is the son of one of my biggest inspirations. Why should I not fight for his freedom when he's so close to me? Look at Sanjay's public conduct in recent years. He has worked for humanitarian causes and played roles like Munnabhai which spread the Gandhian message of world peace and humanism. I pray that pardon will be granted to him. He has suffered enough for his folly. My family and are praying for his pardon."