Actor and recent Padma award recipient Anupam Kher has sparked off an explosive social media backlash after he told a senior journalist during an interview on Saturday that he was scared to say that he is a Hindu. The comment was met with derision and disbelief on Twitter mainly because Kher has been a vocal champion of a group of people who pooh-poohed the idea that there was growing intolerance in India after a spate of incidents of violence in the country.
Kher led a march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in November last year to protest against those who raised their voice after incidents of intolerance, including the murder of rationalists by suspected right wing extremists for speaking up against the ills of organized religion and the killing of a Muslim man who was lynched on suspicion that he had consumed beef.
"Any brutal killing is condemnable. We strongly condemn it and expect swift justice. But if it is used by some people to attempt to defame India at the international platform, then we should be worried. Nobody has the right to call our country intolerant. We are secular people and don't believe in selective outrage," Kher had said in November.
However, yesterday, the acclaimed actor sang a very different tune to IBNLive's Bhupendra Chaubey. "I am today scared of saying I am a Hindu. In this country I am scared to say that if a wear a tilak and saffron clothes I will be branded as an RSS guy," he told Chaubey. The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh believe in a more militant form of Hinduism.
The 60-year-old actor, who has been a vocal champion of the tolerance debate, and insisted that there's no intolerance in india, immediately sparked off sharp reactions from Twitter users who criticized him for changing his stand. One among them was former union minister Shashi Tharoor. "Come on Anupam. I say it all the time. I'm a proud Hindu. Just not the Sangh's kind of Hindu," Tharoor tweeted.
Kher, not known for holding back while responding to his online critics, all but called Tharoor a 'Congi Chamcha'.
Come on Shashi. Never thought you will misinterpret my statement like trolls do. And behave like a Congi Chamcha. https://t.co/SOD44ZPYvM— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) January 30, 2016
The 59-year-old Congress leader retorted saying: "Abuse, @AnupamPkher, is what you use when you run out of arguments. I'm a proud MP of @INCIndia &I don't resort to insults. #CongiChamcha."
The sparring continued as both Tharoor and Kher refused to give ground.
Sadly, you forgot that you brought in your Kind of Hindu & Sanghi Hindu first. You want to categorize that also? https://t.co/I1aBObn5BY— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) January 30, 2016
The responses to Kher's comments came in fast and furious on social media.
So @AnupamPkher says he fears to call himself a Hindu. And then says there is no intolerance. Never seen such a fool in my life!— Vinod Mehta (@DrunkVinodMehta) January 30, 2016
Anupam Kher is scared to talk about being a Hindu in the same way Tavleen Singh is scared to talk about the dynasty pic.twitter.com/Gob3ocxZTY— IndiaExplained (@IndiaExplained) January 30, 2016
Anupam Kher explained. https://t.co/gTANmGw99D— Anurag Verma (@kitAnurag) January 30, 2016
BJP Govt w 'strongest PM', Anupam Kher scared to call himself a Hindu for first time but #CongKillerOfHindus?— Gaurav Pandhi (@GauravPandhi) January 30, 2016
Lol😂😂😂 Propaganda Bankruptcy!
I'm really excited to see if Bhupendra Chaubey is going to ask Anupam Kher about his "past" where he was an actor instead of a inciter.— Aditi Mittal (@awryaditi) January 30, 2016
But Kher also drew sharp criticism from another entirely unexpected quarter.
Actor Kader Khan hit out at Kher saying that he has done nothing "except singing praises for (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi."
Those who participated in the November march had insisted that it was apolitical even though it was organised by the RSS’s cultural wing Sanskar Bharti. Protestors dubbed the writers who had returned their awards to raise their voice against intolerance as traitors, and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Singer Abhijeet, who was present at the march, even suggested that actor Shah Rukh Khan, who had at that time spoken out against intolerance, be "dropped to Pakistan."
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