Riteish Deshmukh, son of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, took to Twitter on Monday to issue a statement regarding Piyush Goyal’s comments about the conduct of his father in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack.
— Riteish Deshmukh (@Riteishd) May 13, 2019
“It is true that I had visited the Taj/Oberoi Hotel but untrue that I was there while the shooting and bombing were happening as you claimed. It is true that I had accompanied my father but untrue that he was trying to get me a role in a film,” the statement read.
“He never ever spoke to a director or a producer to cast me in a film and I take pride in that. You have every right to question a CM but it is wrong to accuse someone who is not here to defend himself. A bit late, 7 yrs ago He would have replied to you,” it added.
Union Minister for Railways, Piyush Goyal, had said earlier, “I am from Mumbai. You might remember the 26/11 terror attack. The then Congress government was weak and could not do anything. The then Chief Minister (Vilasrao Deshmukh) had brought a film producer outside Oberoi Hotel while shooting and bombing was going on inside. CM was concerned about getting his child a film role.”
In response to Riteish’s tweet, Goyal said that he had seen his statement and admitted that he had gone along with his father and Varma the day after the attack but it was just as disgusting. “His father was the Chief Minister. It was a high-security area where no one was allowed to enter but to take a filmmaker there, the intent became evident in 2013 (when the film was released). He even had to resign for his conduct.”
Convict Lalu Prasad Yadav, who commands huge respect within the liberal fraternity, had said the same thing about Vilasrao Deshmukh’s resignation at the time. Goyal further said that it was only due to public pressure and anger that Riteish Deshmukh did not feature in the movie ‘The Attacks of 26/11’ which released in 2013.
He added, “Opposition leaders were not allowed to enter the scene and that’s how it should be but a filmmaker was allowed to. Who does that? Only security forces and forensic experts are allowed at the scene. There are vitals clues present at the scene. There are footprints and other evidence on the basis of which further investigation is conducted. But if a filmmaker starts roaming around the scene, such clues and essential pieces of evidence may get contaminated or damaged. Flowery language is not sufficient to cloak these transgressions.”
While Riteish was correct to point out that the visit occurred after the ordeal was over, he fails to mention that it took place merely a day after the place was cleared of the Pakistani terrorists. Moreover, his father had faced severe criticism for the insensitivity of providing Varma with a guided tour of the hotel ravaged by the massacre.
Initially, the Deshmukh-Varma duo had denied that the VIP tour was for the latter’s movie, fearing public outrage. However, the cat was out of the bag later when the filmmaker announced his movie on the terror attack. It has been maintained that the visit was a mere ‘coincidence’, although most people found it difficult to believe.
Four years later, Varma issued an apology over the matter. He said, “My visit got a lot of flak. I did not realize then but I apologise for hurting people’s sentiments. I was only part of a group of 30 people who visited the Taj then and Vilasraoji did not even know that I was in the group. I was friends with Ritiesh and took the opportunity.”
“I just want to clarify my position on the visit and the allegation of my insensitivity towards the incident and that late Vilasrao Deshmukh facilitated my visit to the Taj. Rumours that I had cast Ritiesh in a film I was planning on the attack was completely baseless,” he added.
Thus, Riteish’s appeal to sentimentality is riddled with falsehoods of its own. Piyush Goyal did not say anything new. The remarks he made were made earlier as well, even by then UPA allies.
Thus, Riteish’s remark that the criticism from Goyal came 7 years late will appear plausible only to those who have spent the previous decade with their head buried under the sand. Also, when he was alive, his father could not mount a plausible defence for his conduct either.
Moreover, his father was the former Chief Minister of a very important state. And a politician’s legacy will always be up for critique, it’s part and parcel of politics. “He is dead, let him be,” is not a valid defence with regards to the legacy of a politician’s life.