News Desk |
Bollywood’s veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah was barred from attending the Fifth Ajmer Literature Festival on Friday after his sharply worded statement on the growing rise of religious extremism evoked protests countrywide.
Naseeruddin Shah was expected to inaugurate the festival with his wife Ratna and later he was to participate in the session on his book. The organizers of the event informed the Police prior to the festival while the authorities forced him to escape the event owing to the threat to his life.
On this occasion, Shah reiterated that he had spoken the truth as a “worried Indian”. “We alerted the police after protests since morning. But the protestors managed to enter the festival venue just before the scheduled inaugural to disrupt the event. We were forced to call Shah and request him not to come to the venue”, said Ras Bihari Gaur, organizer of the event.
The agitated protestors from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) burnt the posters of the event with Shah’s pictures on him. They chanted slogans against him and called him a ‘traitor.’ They demanded Shah to take back his words and apologize.
Naseeruddin Shah while speaking to the media said, “I have said this before also, but I don’t know why this time I am being labeled as a traitor. It is very strange.” “I have to bear criticism. If they have the right to criticize, then I also have the same right. I am expressing concern about the country I love, the country that is my home. How is that a crime?” he asked.
Earlier, referring to the recent violence sparked by the discovery of a cow death, Naseeruddin Shah expressed skepticism over the growing mob violence in India and showed anxiety that death of the cow was more significant than the death of a police officer. He remarked that “the death of a cow has more significance than that of a police officer in India.
Shah also voiced his fears over the security of his children. He imagined a situation in which his children were being surrounded by a furious mob asking him if they were Hindu or a Muslim.
The Bollywood actor went on to say,” There is a “poison” that has spread in the Indian society.” It will be very difficult to capture this djinn [genie] back into the bottle.” He further said that “there exists complete impunity for those who have taken the law in their own hands”.
Not just the protests by BJP, another political organization, Uttar Pradesh Navnirma Sena (UPNS) said it would book tickets for Naseeruddin Shah to send him to Pakistan over the recent comments made by the veteran actor on violence. “If Naseeruddin Shah feels scared in India, he can go to Pakistan. The UPNS has booked an air-ticket for him to Pakistan for August 14,” UPNS chief Amit Jani said.
The rise of anti-Muslim sentiments is now worrying the Muslim actors in the Indian film industry who are otherwise thought to be less prone to mob violence than common Muslim citizen. Shabana Azmi had been at odds in previous years for her statements but now increasingly more and more Muslim actors are raising their voice over the growing threat and Naseer ud Din Shah has been the latest.