Information and broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday hit out at those accusing the government of creating a climate of intolerance and muzzling free speech, questioning their “silence” on the trolling of young Kashmiri actor Zaira Wasim.
The actor who played a young Geeta Phogat in Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, was trolled on social media for meeting Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. India’s first gold medal winning wrestler in the Commonwealth Games, Phogat is credited with making the “masculine” sport popular among girls
“Why is she being questioned on her career choices? Why did she have to tender an apology for meeting the CM of her own state? Why is everyone silent now? Where are the so-called ultra liberals now?” the minister said.
“Now, when this actor is being subjected to ruthless trolls and open accusations on the internet for no seeming fault of hers, doesn’t this equate to intolerance?”
The 16-year-old Wasim was on Monday forced to apologise for the meeting. She deleted the Facebook post that set off the storm and another that followed it. Some celebrities and politicians have since spoken up for the Srinagar girl, who also stars in Khan’s next venture, Secret Superstar.
Talking about the “intolerance” debate triggered by lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri in 2015 for allegedly slaughtering a cow and eating beef, Naidu said silence on the issue “clearly shows the irony of the ‘ultra liberals’ who vehemently came out together to speak against the flimsy premise of growing ‘intolerance’ in the country”.
“Now, when this actor is being subjected to ruthless trolls and open accusations on the internet for no seeming fault of hers, doesn’t this equate to intolerance?” the minister said in a statement.
Following the Dadri lynching, several state award winners returned their honours in protest against what they alleged was the growing culture of intolerance in the country.
The minister also lashed out at the film industry for protesting against the ban on Pakistani actors at a time when there was a spike in terror attacks sponsored from across the border. “The people who had vocally spoken then are conspicuous by their silence now. Why isn’t the same magnitude of support being shown now? They had spoken then, why not now?” he said.
Referring to Wasim, Naidu said it was a “great achievement” that children from J&K were coming into the mainstream and showcasing their talent, inspiring thousands of other youngsters.