Actor Naseeruddin Shah on Friday defended his statement that the death of a cow is being given more importance than that of a police officer in present day India, ANI reported. His remark had triggered a debate on social media.

Shah’s comment came after the violence in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, in which police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was killed on December 3 following the discovery of cow carcasses in the area.

Shah said he made the comments as a concerned Indian citizen. “What did I say this time that I am being termed as a traitor?” Shah told reporters. “I am expressing concerns about the country I love, the country that is my home. How is that a crime?”

Shah had made his initial comments during an interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat India, a civil society initiative that aims to foster harmony between religious groups, on Monday. “The poison has already spread,” Shah had said. “There is complete impunity for those who take the law into their own hands. In many regions we are witnessing that the death of a cow has more significance than that of a police officer.”

The actor had said that he feels anxious for his children in present day India, and that he was not scared, but angry. “And I feel that every right-thinking person should feel angry, not scared,” he added. “This [India] is our home. Who can dare to evict us from here?”

Bulanshahr violence

On December 3, a mob allegedly led by members of the Bajrang Dal clashed with police officials and set fire to a police post in Chingrawathi village of Bulandshahr. The violence involved rioting, burning of vehicles and later gunfire that killed police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh and a student named Sumit Kumar. The violence started after the residents of a neighbouring village, Mahaw, claimed that they had found the carcasses of three cows in a sugarcane field.

Two weeks ago, a police officer said the police would focus on the alleged incident of cow slaughter and not the murder of a police inspector and a civilian. Additional Superintendent of Police (Rural) Raees Akhtar said that the “cow killers are our top priority” and that “the murder and rioting case is on the backburner for now”.

Earlier, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath claimed that the death of inspector Singh was merely an accident. On December 19, the Uttar Pradesh Police moved a local court claiming that four men they had arrested in connection with the alleged cow slaughter appeared to be innocent.