Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday appeared to tone down his veiled criticism of actor Aamir Khan, whom he had indirectly condemned the previous day for his supposedly unpatriotic remarks. Parrikar said he had not meant anyone in particular, and that he was “just saying” that people who speak against the country should be “verbally condemned”.

Parrikar had plainly referred to the actor’s comments at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards in November, saying “an actor made this mistake, said his wife wants to go and stay in a foreign country. That was an arrogant statement.” He also referred to an “online trading company”, purportedly SnapDeal, saying it had to pull its endorsements featuring the actor after his words caused a controversy.

The Congress had decried Parrikar’s comments, saying the Bharatiya Janata Party was simply trying to stifle dissent. Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi had said, “hate is the preserve of the coward and it never wins.”

Khan had raked up a controversy after responding to a question at the November event on whether the country had become intolerance. He had noted that there was a “sense of growing disquiet” about India's social fabric. “When I chat with [his wife] Kiran at home, she says, 'Should we move out of India?'" he had said. "That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day."