Defence minister Manohar Parrikar faced political outrage on Sunday for his remarks that Bollywood actor Aamir Khan should be “taught a lesson” for commenting last November about growing religious intolerance and bigotry in the country. The minister later clarified that he was not opposed to freedom of expression, but opposed to unrest.
Parrikar, speaking at a book launch in Pune on Saturday, called the actor arrogant without naming him.
“One actor had said that his wife wants to leave India. It was an arrogant statement. If I am poor and my house is small, I will still love my house and always dream to make a bungalow out of it,” he said. He also referred to the alleged anti-national sloganeering at JNU in February.
His comments attracted opposition fire, with the Congress accusing the BJP, and its ideological mentor RSS, of a “concerted conspiracy” to hound Dalits, minorities, writers, actors and whoever dissents against the Narendra Modi government.
“RSS & Parrikarji want to teach everyone a lesson. Here’s a lesson for you: hate is the preserve of the coward and it never wins,” Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi posted on Twitter.
Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Parrikar’s statement indicated nobody would be allowed space to dissent in India.
For his part, the defence minister said on Sunday he did not target any specific person, and that he was not opposed to “freedom of expression, but feels the country is supreme”.
“I have not taken anybody’s name. I had said that people who don’t respect the country should be opposed ... I am opposed to upadrav (unrest). Such people should be opposed in a democratic manner,” he said in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
In November last year, Khan joined the chorus against “growing intolerance”. The cine start said he was “alarmed” by the number of incidents and his wife, Kiran Rao, even suggested that they leave the country.
“When I sit at home and talk to Kiran, she says ‘Should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.”
Parrikar said when Aamir made such a comment, people discontinued their association with an online trading company he was associated with.
His reference to the e-retailer prompted the Congress to allege that Parrikar has “unknowingly” exposed the conspiracy of BJP supporters to hound the online company to remove Khan as its brand ambassador.
The Congress’s salvo comes at a time protests and criticism were mounting against attacks on Dalits, Muslims and other minorities in the two years of NDA rule.
Shocking revelation by @manoharparrikar that BJP supporters actively disrupted, sabotaged Snapdeal on Aamir Khan issue. Scandalous!— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) July 31, 2016