Aamir Khan’s remarks on growing “intolerance” within the country sparked off a political storm on Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the actor, while Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and opposition leaders Sitaram Yechury and Arvind Kejriwal came out in his support.
Security had to be stepped up at the actor’s residence after Hindu Sena activists protested outside, demanding that he withdraw his remarks.
Speaking at an award ceremony Khan on Monday, Aamir Khan had said he and his family were disturbed at the growing disquiet in the country and his wife Kiran Rao had wondered if they should move out of India. Aamir Khan’s statements come weeks after Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan had spoken about being uncomfortable with the atmosphere of “intolerance.”
Supporting Aamir Khan, Rahul Gandhi said in a series of tweets, “Instead of branding all those who question the Govt & Modiji- as unpatriotic, anti-national or ‘motivated’ The Govt would do better to reach out to people to understand what’s disturbing them. That’s the way to solve problems in India- not by bullying, threatening & abusing!”
BJP members lashed out at Aamir Khan since morning. “Don’t forget India made you a star,” said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
At a press conference in Mumbai, he said the Congress was behind this. “This shows Congress complicity in a campaign to malign the country. The Congress cannot tolerate an elected government and a popular prime minister. When the country is progressing under the leadership of Narendra Modi, Congress is creating an atmosphere to malign the country,” he said.
Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju refuted Aamir Khan’s remarks, stating that communal incidents in the country had come down since the Modi government came to power in May 2014.
BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, who has stirred up controversies earlier, said, “If somebody wants to leave (India), then has anybody stopped him? If somebody wants to leave, he can do so voluntarily. At least, it will reduce the country’s population.”
Bollywood actors, too, accused Aamir Khan of playing politics. Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal, Raveen Tandon, who are either BJP party members or sympathisers, lashed out against Aamir Khan.
The company roped in Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador back in March this year. The endorsement fee was estimated to be between Rs 15-20 crore and Aamir Khan Snpadeal launch him as its ambassador through an extensive television ad campaign.
Reacting to Khan’s remarks, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweed: “Every word that @aamir_khan said is so true. I admire him for speaking up.”
Incidentally, the Chief Whip of the Congress in the Lok Sabha has already moved a notice asking for a discussion on the intolerance issue, as have other Opposition parties.