Reacting to the Nupur Sharma controversy, Naseeruddin Shah said: “The lady is not a fringe element. She is a national spokesperson.”
Amid the heavy international backlash over suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks on Prophet Mohammed, in an exclusive interview to NDTV, veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah on Wednesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should step in and “stop the poison”.
“I would appeal to the PM to knock some good sense into these people. If what he believes is what was said at the (Haridwar) Dharma Sansad, he should say so and if not, he should say so,” Naseeruddin Shah told NDTV in an interview.
“I wish that the hatemongers that the PM follows on Twitter…He has to do something. He needs to step in to prevent the poison from growing.”
Reacting to the Nupur Sharma controversy, Mr Shah said: “The lady is not a fringe element. She is a national spokesperson.”
Referring to her comment on Hindu gods being insulted, the 71-year-old actor said he couldn’t recall any instance when a Muslim made such an inflammatory statement on a Hindu deity.
Citing the famous George Orwell’s 1984, Mr Shah said: “It was an insincere apology, hardly meant to assuage hurt feelings. You talk of peace and unity and you are sent to jail for a year. You talk of genocide, you get a slap on the wrist. There are double standards working here.”
Mr Shah, speaking on death threats received by Nupur Sharma, said it should be condemned.
“To even think that way is wrong. That is why Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the situation they are in. We don’t want to emulate these countries, but we are somehow doing so. People are killed on the suspicion of slaughtering cow. These things happened in barbaric Islamic countries – not India,” he told NDTV.
The Wednesday actor also blamed news channels for the hate talk.
“The hate is manufactured and it is a venom that spews when you are confronted with an opposing view. TV news and social media are responsible for this,” he said.
Naseeruddin Shah agreed that what we see today had been building for years. “The fault lies with my parents’ generation. There were jokes made about you being H or M. Even if our parents were not fed hate, they had experienced Partition and it had been brewing for a long time and now gradually it has been legitimized,” he said.
Mr Shah, when questioned if he felt the Khans of Bollywood should have spoken up on the current controversy, said: “I am not in the position they are in. But I think they are in a position where they have too much to lose. I feel they think they would be risking too much.”
The renowned actor also referred to the arrest of Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan, and the NCB clearing him in the case later.
“What happened to Shah Rukh Khan and the dignity with which he faced it was admirable. It was nothing but a witch-hunt. All he did was support Trinamool and applaud Mamata Banerjee. Sonu Sood gets raided. Anyone who makes any statement gets a response. Maybe I am next. I don’t know. (laughs) Though they won’t find anything.”
However, Mr Shah said, that despite everything, he did not feel marginalized or othered.
“I am in a fortunate position compared to a majority of Muslims in India who feel threatened or marginalised. I don’t feel marginalised. I am not unhappy in this country. This is the country I was brought up in and I am luckily in a position where I cannot be marginalised. It is not like my anti-establishment statements have prevented me from getting work. I am just hopeful that somehow good sense prevails. Personally speaking, I don’t feel left out. I am aware of my Muslim identity and my Muslim culture. My wife is a Hindu and we don’t feel held back. This hate wave will dissipate. Some day.”