Anupam Kher, social media and controversy are inseparable these days. All three elements were at play again on Tuesday when the actor was miffed after he claimed that the Pakistani authorities had denied him a visa to attend the Karachi Literary Festival starting February 5.
Kher, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan last week, alleged that he was the only one of the 18 Indian delegates invited to the event whose passport hadn't been stamped. Among the Indians who will attend are Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Rahul Singh, Om Arora, Urvashi Butalia and Ashok Chopra and Nandita Das.
Inevitably, it all began on social media, when Kher posted a tweet on Tuesday morning announcing that his visa had been denied.
He then went on a rant of sorts, attributing the "rejection" of his visa request to his strong opinions on the intolerance debate in India and the plight of Kashmiri Pandits,
But the matter took a twist when the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi denied having rejected Kher's visa: they said that he had not made an application in the first place. This prompted the actor to continue his Twitter commentary on the issue.
On Tuesday, he announced a press conference for the evening to "prove the Pakistan High Commission's" lie. At the event, Kher produced what he claimed was evidence of "email-based negotiations" to support his allegations. He said that he had not personally applied for the visa, but the organisers of the Karachi Literature Festival had applied on his behalf. He added that the Pakistani government had told the organisers of the event not to invite him. Kher also asked his fellow Indian delegates to speak out on the matter.
"I am not angry at anyone; I am hurt and saddened," he told the press conference. Kher had been denied a Pakistani visa last year on security grounds ahead of a planned visit to charity event in Lahore.
Under normal procedure, the organisers of the Karachi event would need to obtain a no objection certificate from Pakistan's interior ministry as a pre-requisite for Kher's visa to be processed. In this case, Kher claims that Pakistan's foreign ministry "red-flagged" his name to the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi. Pakistani authorities have not denied this claim.
By the evening, there was still no clarity on who was telling the truth – Kher or the Pakistani authorities. But social media users had a field day with the story nevertheless.