Actor Naseeruddin Shah on Friday appeared in an Amnesty India video, expressing concern about “walls of hate in the name of religion” and increasing “crackdown” on freedom of expression in the country. Shah claimed law has now been replaced with “darkness” as journalists are being silenced, innocent people being killed, and human rights activists being jailed.
The video came weeks after Shah had faced outrage from right-wing organisations for saying he felt anxious for his children in present-day India. He had expressed worry that the death of a cow was given more importance than that of a police officer today – a reference to an inspector’s killing in mob violence in Bulandshahr last month.
In the Amnesty India video released on Friday, Shah said: “Those who fight for justice, human rights and raise their voices against corruption are in fact protecting our constitutional rights. But now, those who are fighting for our rights are being locked up in jails. Artists, actors, scholars and poets, all are being stifled. Journalists, too, are being silenced. In the name of religion, walls of hate are being erected. Innocents are being killed. The country is awash with horrific hatred and cruelty.”
As he spoke about activists being jailed, the video showed visuals of activists who were arrested last year in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon in January 2018. Ten activists were jailed after being accused of masterminding the violence and of having links with a banned Maoist outfit.
Shah further said: “And those who stand against this injustice are having their office raided, their licence cancelled, their bank accounts frozen, their voice silenced. Only so that they are deterred from speaking the truth.”
In October last year, the Enforcement Directorate had raided the premises of Amnesty India’s Bengaluru office in connection with a foreign exchange contravention case.
Shah said at the end: “Is this where our Constitution is headed? Had we dreamt of a country where there is no space for dissent? Where only rich and powerful are heard, and where the poorest and most vulnerable are forever oppressed? Where there once was law, there is now only darkness.”