Veteran Bollywood actor Anupam Kher flagged off his March for India in Delhi amid great fanfare on Saturday. He was flanked by filmmakers Ashok Pandit and Madhur Bhandarkar. Leading the march, Kher asserted that the world needed to know that India remained united and tolerant despite what was being projected.
“This march is a symbolic gesture. We want to send a signal that there are millions of Indians who don’t think that India is intolerant. Every nation faces ups and down but branding the nation as intolerant because of it is wrong,” Kher told the media.
Stressing that the march was being taken out as a message to the world that India was tolerant, Kher added that no one had the right to preach to another country about patriotism. “I read in an international magazine yesterday where it was taken out in large words that we are an intolerable society and it enraged me to no end. Every Indian should be angered by this. No other nation can teach us about patriotism,” he said.
The actor emphasised on the fact the two opposing views being openly shown in a nation automatically indicated the high level of freedom that is prevalent.
Talking about his upcoming meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee, Kher said they wanted to convey the message that Indian was a tolerant nation despite what some people were saying.
”We are secular and we don’t believe in selective outrage. Every country has its problem and goes through upheavals but nobody has the right to call our nation intolerant. I respect those who are protesting against the government but have they even approached the Prime Minister,” he asked.
Kher’s march comes in the wake of several filmmakers, writers and historians raising their voices against the rising intolerance and threatening the government with ‘Award Wapsi’ (return of awards) to vent their ire. “Patriotism gives us a feeling of self-worth. Join us on this historical day at National Museum, Janpath at 10am,” Kher tweeted Saturday morning.
Ahead of the event, he also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spare some time to talk with him so that he could convey the message of the people to him.
Questioning the ‘Award Wapsi’ trend, the actor had said how the protesters could say that their freedom was being suppressed when they were openly being allowed to demonstrate and agitate.
“What can be a bigger example of freedom when on a daily basis you are saying things against the nation? There are those who have come out and openly expressed their dislike for the Prime Minister. The press has been given unmatched freedom to say whatever they want. I respect everyone’s views, but when someone slams my nation and insults it on an international level, it angers and saddens me,” Kher told media.
He expressed his confidence that if the agitating literary icons and artists made an attempt to convey their message to Prime Minister Mod,i then their pleas would not go unheard.
“I have written to the Prime Minister and also tweeted to him so that he gives me the time to speak to him. I also want to convey to him the message from the other side,” he added.
Talking about his march where Kher has invited all Indians to head to the Rashtrapati Bhawan to protest against the voices being raised over “intolerance” in the country, the actor said even if five people turned up for the event, it would be significant enough for him.
Filmmakers Ashoke Pandit and Madhur Bhandarkar also came out in support of Kher.
“It’s a symbolic march. Me and Anupam Kher will be leading the march,” Bhandarkar said.
He added that it was a “symbolic event and the protest is against the ‘wrong projection’ of the country’s image. “We all are with him (Anupam Kher), never thought it would turn so big,” Pandit told media.
“Those who are returning their awards and saying in chorus that there is an environment of intolerance were already against this government. When Kashmiri pundits were being killed, I had requested them to raise their voices against it, but they were all silent,” Pandit told reporters.
“What has happened in the last 14 months that they are feeling insecure? They cannot stomach the fact that they won’t be able to enjoy their unnecessary luxuries under the new government that has formed,” he added.
Hitting out at the protestors, Pandit said they had chosen to speak out on “selective” issues which is why it was important to give a strong retort.
“From the time these people started returning their awards, we realised it is a conspiracy. Being responsible citizens and part of this industry, we decided to raise our voice against it,” he said.
Slamming Anupam Kher’s anti ‘Award Wapsi’ march, the Congress on Saturday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he was putting his representatives out there instead of dealing with the situation himself.
“Anupam Kher’s wife is a Parliament member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the government believes that by putting the representatives out there, they can neutralize the situation,” Congress leader Rashid Alvi told reporters.
He asserted the government should understand that taking out a procession by their own representatives cannot rectify the situation, unless it carries out a probe against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders who are continuously hampering the situation in the nation.