Actor Anupam Kher, who was recently picked for the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, came under sharp attack from Punjabi writer Gurbachan Singh Bhullar. The first Punjabi author to return his Sahitya Akademi award to protest the assassination of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and other such events, flayed Kher as a ‘darbari artist’ in an interview to HT on Monday.
“When we returned awards against the murders of writers, they called us Congress’s ‘darbari’ poets and writers... But Anupam Kher protested against us and said there was no intolerance in the country; the protest placards said ‘Dhongi sahityakaron ko jute maaro’ (Beat up the fake litterateurs) and the protesters also misbehaved with a television journalist. That was intolerance in itself,” Bhullar said.
“Everyone knows why Kher is being awarded the Padma Bhushan; Anupam Kher is the first ‘darbari’ artist,” he added.
He clarified that the writers who returned awards or supported what came to be known as the #awardwapsi movement, “never said India is intolerant; we criticised the ruling party over its intolerant attitude”. He added, “Those people who differed from the government were called anti-national. People were being slaughtered in their houses... this is intolerance and goes against national integration.”
Meanwhile Kher, whose wife Kirron Kher is a BJP MP from Chandigarh, claimed he had been denied a visa by Pakistan where he was to go and attend the Karachi literature festival.