Bollywood veteran Naseeruddin Shah claims he has been targeted by Social Media users over his support for a Pakistani author because he is a Muslim.
Shah was repeatedly trolled on Twitter on Wednesday after he urged people in India to extend the same kind of welcome to Pakistanis visiting India as Indians travelling to Pakistan.
Speaking at the Mumbai launch of a book by former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri – whose visit to the city has angered the likes of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena – Shah said: “I went to Pakistan several times but never has a performance been disrupted, disturbed or even threatened. I have never had to carry any security.”
Khurshid’s presence in the city has angered the powerful Shiv Sena group which claims that Pakistanis should not be allowed in India owing to what it says is Pakistan’s support of terror groups that have carried out attacks in India and continued tensions in Kashmir.
Khurshid’s visit to Mumbai was organized by the independent think tank Observer Research Foundation whose chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni was attacked and had black paint thrown on him by Shiv Sena activists on Monday.
Speaking at the book launch, Shah added: “I wish we could have accorded Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri the kind of welcome I received when I visited Lahore. I would only like to tell hate-mongers and those who prefer confrontation over debate and discussion that they look for the differences between India and Pakistan rather than the similarities.”
Scores of people took to Twitter to attack Shah with some even calling him a terrorist sympathizer.
A visibly upset Shah then appeared on a national TV channel to claim that his religion was behind the attacks.
“My name is Naseeruddin Shah and I believe that’s why I was targeted. It really pains me to say this. I have never ever been aware of my identity until now. Four generations of my family have lived in India. I am proud to be an Indian and I will not allow anybody to question my patriotism.”
He also questioned why praising anything about Pakistan is deemed to be ‘anti-Indian’, saying, “If I say Imran Khan is great, does that make Sunil Gavaskar any less of a cricketer?”
The award-winning actor was asked if he would follow the example of the writers who had returned the national ‘Sahitya Akadmi’ awards in protest at growing intolerance and attacks on intellectuals.
“Awards mean nothing to me and therefore I won’t bother returning them. I wish those writers, instead of returning their awards, had written more strongly on what is happening to India in protest”, Shah said.
Ironically enough, Kasuri’s book is described as the first “comprehensive” account by a Pakistani Foreign Minister who contributed to moving the peace process with India forward.
Among the contentions Kasuri makes in the book is that the history of the region would have been wholly different had Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah had had their own way and not partitioned India in 1947.