Mumbai: Under fierce criticism from BJP and its allies over his remarks on intolerance, Bollywood star Aamir Khan on Wednesday asserted that he stood by what he had stated and that neither he nor his wife Kiran Rao have any intention to leave the country.
The 50-year-old Aamir, who drew flak from BJP and a section of film fraternity for expressing his “alarm and despondency” over the rise in recent incidents of intolerance, came out with a statement, saying he is “proud to be an Indian”.
Aamir Khan. AFP
Hitting out at Aamir, Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday said the “extreme reaction” given by the actor has not only “dented” the image of the country but also his own.
Joining his party colleagues who have been critical of Aamir’s comments, Javedekar said the reason why his party did not agree with the actor’s statement is because the country has a “legacy of tolerance”.
Another Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said tolerance is in India’s DNA and the actor need not leave the country, advising him to not come under the influence of “fabricated political propaganda”.
“Tolerance is in India’s DNA. There is no space for intolerance in the country. People don’t need to get influenced by fabricated political propaganda,” he tweeted.
Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “Some are propagating wrong things some are coming under wrong propaganda. There is more tolerance in India. People of India are tolerant.”
The government had called Aamir’s comments alarmist, with ministers alleging a conspiracy to tarnish India’s image.
In his one-page statement, Aamir said,”First let me state categorically that neither I, nor my wife Kiran, have any intention of leaving the country. We never did, and nor would we like to in the future.
“Anyone implying the opposite has either not seen my interview or is deliberately trying to distort what I have said. India is my country, I love it, I feel fortunate for being born here, and this is where I am staying,” he said.
The actor had kicked up a political storm with his remarks at a function in Delhi on Monday about his wife expressing fear for their child in the current atmosphere.
He had said, “Kiran and I have lived all our life in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India… She fears for her child, she fears about what the atmosphere around us will be.”
A defiant Aamir showed no signs of relenting on Wednesday in the face of fresh attack.
“I stand by everything that I have said in my interview. To all those people who are calling me anti-national, I would like to say that I am proud to be Indian, and I do not need anyone’s permission nor endorsement for that,” he said.
Sources close to the actor denied media reports that Kiran was asked to leave Mumbai for a few days in view of the raging controversy. She is in Mumbai and has no plans to leave the city, the sources said.
BJP had hit out at Aamir, saying “Where will he and his family go other than India? There is no other better country like India and no better neighbour than a Hindu for an Indian Muslim. What is the situation in Muslim countries and Europe. There is intolerance everywhere.”
Shielding him from the attack, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had said the government should instead of branding all those who question it and the Prime Minister as “unpatriotic, anti-national or motivated” reach out to people to understand what’s disturbing them.
In his statement, Aamir said, “To all the people shouting obscenities at me for speaking my heart out, it saddens me to say you are only proving my point.” He also thanked those who stood by him.
“To all the people who have stood by me, thank you. We have to protect what this beautiful and unique country of ours really stands for. We have to protect its integrity, diversity, inclusiveness, its many languages, its culture, its history, its tolerance, it’s concept of ekantavada, it’s love, sensitivity and its emotional strength,” he said.
The actor ended his statement by quoting Rabindranath Tagore’s famous poem, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments, by narrow domestic walls, Where words come out from the depth of truth.
“Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way, Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, Where the mind is led forward by thee, Into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake,” signing off with “Jai Hind”.
Naqvi said, “There is nothing wrong as peace and harmony are prevailing in the country. So Aamir does not need to leave the country. He should stay back and should not come under the influence of fabricated political propaganda,” he added.
Deprecating the actor’s remarks, Javadekar said, “The statement of Aamir may have been his personal opinion but the country has been hurt by it to a large extent. If such an extreme reaction is given by a prominent artiste, then naturally some people get hurt and sad.
“The reason why we do not agree with the statement is because our country has a legacy of tolerance which is there even today. Not only has Aamir’s statement dented the image of the country but his own image has been dented,” he said.
Accusing the BJP of indulging in “fascist and discriminative” politics, the Samajwadi Party came out in open support of Aamir.
Senior SP leader and Cabinet minister Shivpal Singh Yadav told reporters in Jaunpur in UP, “Aamir does not need to leave the country. He can live anywhere in UP.”
Wading into the controversy, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said a “strong backlash” against Aamir only strengthened his views on intolerance.
“A strong backlash against @aamir_khan also amounts to #Intolerance. It would only strengthen his views on intolerance.”, Pawar said on micro-blogging site Twitter.