In a counter to legendary writers, artists, multi-lingual authors, scientists and historians who have returned their awards strongly protesting against the “rising intolerance”, Bollywood actor Anupam Kher on Saturday led a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mr. Kher, whose wife is a sitting BJP MP from Chandigarh, alleged that the campaign to return awards was to defame the country by projecting a “wrong” picture of the situation.
“India is a very tolerant country. Some people have coined the term ‘growing intolerance’. They are very few. Not every Indian thinks like that. We are secular people. We do not believe in pseudo-secularism, selective outrage or selective patriotism,” Anupam Kher told the press.
“This march is a symbolic gesture on part of a lot of people over here who say India is one and free of intolerance,” Kher added.
Asserting their rally is not associated with any organisation or political party, Anupam Kher added, “This march is led by Indians and for Indians.”
Among the filmmakers and artistes who participated in the rally included Madhur Bhandarkar, Priyadarshan, Manoj Joshi, playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya, censor board member Ashoke Pandit and writer Madhu Kishwar. The group handed over a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee. The memorandum is signed by 90 personalities, including Kamal Haasan, Shekhar Kapur, Vidya Balan, Raveena Tandon and Vivek Oberoi besides, authors, former judges and musicians.
Actor Anupam Kher will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the evening.
Speaking to the press after their meeting, Ashoke Pandit said the President has assured them that he will take up the issue with the PM.
Raising questions over the intention of those writers and filmmakers who have returned their awards, Bhandarkar, a National Award winner himself, alleged they had opposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi even before he was elected.
“The projection that is happening for the past few days is very sad. The people who were against Modiji during elections are the same people who are coming out right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, the protest turned ugly when some people started shouting anti-media slogans and heckled the journalists.
“A bunch of people were shouting and calling the media biased. They said we practice selective journalism. They heckled us,” a reporter from a leading news channel told the news agency.
More than 40 writers and multi-lingual authors have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards after the shocking incidents of Dadri lynching and murders of rationalist thinkers. The protest by the writers and authors was followed with over 30 filmmakers and artists giving up National awards. Noted scientist PM Bhargava had even returned his Padma Bhushan honour in protest.
(With inputs from the PTI)