Days after actor Naseeruddin Shah expressed worry over mob violence in India, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said his administration will show the Narendra Modi government “how to treat minorities”. In response, Shah told The Indian Express that Khan should stay away from “issues that don’t concern him”.
“Even in India, people are saying that minorities are not being treated as equal citizens,” Khan said at an event in Lahore, PTI reported. He said his government is taking steps to ensure that religious minorities in Pakistan get their rights. Khan said denial of justice to the weak leads to uprising, and cited the creation of Bangladesh as an example. Khan said Shah’s remark was reminiscent of the fears that Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had about how Muslims would be treated in a united India after Independence.
Shah told The Indian Express after Khan’s remarks: “I think Mr Khan should be walking the talk in his own country instead of commenting on issues that don’t concern him. We have been a democracy for 70 years and we know how to look after ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday said it was “very unfortunate” that organisers of the Ajmer Literature Festival in the state had cancelled a session by Shah after protests against him at the venue on Friday. “Administration was fully prepared to hold festival peacefully,” he said. “Our government respects all rights and liberties of each and every citizen.”
Shah’s comment had triggered outrage from Hindu nationalist groups.
Naseeruddin Shah’s remarks
The controversy began with Shah’s initial remark that the death of a cow is given more importance than that of a police officer in today’s India. The remark was made with reference to the violence in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh on December 3, in which a police inspector was killed following the discovery of cattle carcasses in a field.
He made the on Monday during an interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat, a civil society initiative that aims to foster harmony between religious groups. “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?”
Shah later defended his remarks and said he had made them as a concerned Indian citizen.
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 Bulandshahr. The violence involved rioting, burning of vehicles and later gunfire that killed a police inspector and a student. 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.
Statements made by several police officers in Uttar Pradesh indicated that the administration was prioritising solving the alleged cow slaughter incident over the deaths in the rioting that followed.