Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met a delegation of 51 artists and writers headed by actor Anupam Kher, who led a march to the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday, and said Indian culture goes beyond tolerance, and talks of acceptance.
“They expressed concern over what they described as a protest with a political agenda by a section of people to tarnish the image of the country, and derail the development initiatives of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister stated that Indian culture goes beyond tolerance, and talks of acceptance,” said a statement issued by PIB.
The delegation also met the President and raised concerns about the ‘award wapsi’ by a string of artistes, who find “intolerance” in the country.
We had a Great meeting with Hon. President of India Sh. Pranab Mukherjee. He said 'Awards are given by Nation not by Govts.':)#MarchForIndia— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) November 7, 2015
Kher led a march alleging that the “award-wapsi” campaign over the ‘growing intolerance’ was to defame the country by projecting a “wrong” picture of the situation.
Delegation of artists led by Actor Anupam Kher meet PM Narendra Modi (Pic courtesy: PIB) pic.twitter.com/bgbHr3a0QF— ANI (@ANI_news) November 7, 2015
“India is a very tolerant country. Some people have coined the term ‘growing intolerance’. They are very few. Not every Indian thinks like that. We are secular people. We do not believe in pseudo-secularism, selective outrage or selective patriotism,” Kher, who is the spouse of BJP MP from Chandigarh Kirron Kher, told reporters.
“We had a meeting with a lot of writers, artistes, filmmakers and they also believe that there is no intolerance in the country... This march is a symbolic gesture on part of a lot of people over here who say India is one and free of intolerance,” the 60-year-old said.
Many filmmakers and artistes from the fraternity including Madhur Bhandarkar, Ashoke Pandit, Priyadarshan, Manoj Joshi, Abhijeet Bhattacharya and writer Madhu Kishwar joined the march to hand over a memorandum signed by more than 40 personalities including actress Raveena Tandon.
Bhandarkar, a National Award winner, alleged that those involved in the protest over intolerance had opposed Prime Minister Modi before he was elected, which raised questions about their intention.
“The projection that is happening for the past few days is very sad. The people who were against Modiji during elections are the same people who are coming out right now. “The whole projection and narrative that is going abroad is wrong. It is a diverse country and of course there are incidents but we all condemn them. There is no two ways about it,” he said.
Kher asserted that they were not associated with any organisation or political party.
“This march is led by Indians and for Indians.”
Film-maker Priyadarshan said the act of returning the awards is “childish”. “People returning awards are doing a childish act. They should use the power of pen. Instances of intolerance have always been there. It is not something that happened yesterday. Shah Rukh Khan never said he is returning award,” Priyadarshan told PTI.
“They are respected people but behaving like school children,” Priyadarshan said.
He, however, disapproved of those critical of Khan who had said that there was extreme intolerance in the country.
At least 75 members of the intelligentsia have returned national or literary awards in an escalation of protests by writers, historians, filmmakers and scientists over “growing intolerance”, voicing fears that the country’s robust democracy might be “coming apart” in the current atmosphere.
The BJP-led government has dismissed the protest as “manufactured rebellion” and “politically” motivated.