Hours after Shabana Azmi spoke against the attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni for inviting a former Pakistani minister for book launch in Mumbai, another renowned Bollywood actor, Anupam Kher has ‘defended’ Shiv Sainiks’ violent action.
This is a clear indication how even the Bollywood artists are now divided over the issue of what’s being described as growing religious intolerance in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime.
Religious intolerance in India in recent months particularly since BJP government assumed office at the centre has become a huge subject of discussion. Many feel that the right wing elements have gained confidence after the BJP came to power. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been singled out for criticism for ‘turning a blind eye’ to what his party describes ‘fringe elements.’
“If anyone had misbehaved with Sudheendra Kulkarni’s family would he have invited that person to tea? The case of Ghulam Ali is different as he is an artist. Mr Kasuri was former foreign secretary(sic). There are many Pakistani artists in Indian film industry,” Kher was quoted by the news agency ANI.
The veteran actor expressed his anguish that he was not allowed to perform in Pakistan despite having made requests ‘too many times.’
He said, ” I have not been allowed to perform my play in Pak, I applied too many times & visa wasn’t granted. Which is fine, I can deal with it.”
Kher also attacked those renowned artists, who were returning their literary awards to protest against the religious intolerance in the country. He said this was a ‘conspiracy’ to ‘discredit’ the prime minister.
He added, ” I think this is mostly to discredit the PM. If they want to return why not return everything? This is politically motivated, it’s not like violent incidents are happening in the nation for the first time.”
Kher has always been perceived as a supporter of the saffron brigade. His actress wife, Kirron Kher, is a BJP MP. But the actor has denied his views had anything to do with her wife’s association with the BJP.
He said, ” Many say my wife is in BJP so I am critical about academics returning awards. I’m independent in my views.”
As many as 24 eminent scholars have returned their literary honours in protest against the growing religious intolerance in the country. However, the recent developments such as the last month’s Dadri lynching, cancellation of Ghulam Ali concert following Shiv Sena threats and attacks on Sudheendra Kulkarni have sharply divided even the Bollywood fraternity.
It’s not the first time Bollywood stars have thrown their weight behind a political party. There are instances of many former stars contesting elections under the banners of various political parties. Amitabh Bachchan (Congress), Vinod Khanna (BJP), Shatrughan Sinha (BJP), Govinda (Congress), Dharmendra and wife Hema Malini(both BJP), Raj Babbar (SP and Congress) and Kirron Kher to name a few.
Another actor Ajay Devgan has been billed as the BJP’s star campaigner in the ongoing Bihar elections.