The ongoing controversy over veteran Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah's recent remarks on mob violence in India has reached Pakistan, with its Prime Minister Imran Khan asserting that his government will "show" the Narendra Modi government "how to treat minorities". The actor found himself at the centre of a major controversy over his remarks in reference to the killing of a policeman in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district on December 3. Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh and a student, Sumit Kumar, were killed in the mob violence after cow carcasses were found strewn around. The main accused in the case is a local Bajrang Dal leader, Yogesh Raj, who is still absconding.
Addressing an event to highlight the 100-day achievements of the Punjab government in Lahore, Khan asserted that his government is taking steps to ensure that religious minorities in Pakistan get their due rights, which was also a vision of the country's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
The Pakistani prime minister added thaá¹ his government will make it sure that the minorities feel safe, protected and have equal rights in 'New Pakistan'."We will show the Modi government how to treat minorities...Even in India, people are saying that minorities are not being treated as equal citizens," he said referring to Shah's statement.
In a video interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat India, the veteran actor said the death of a cow was being given importance over killing of a policeman in India. He said the "poison has already spread" and it will be now difficult to contain it."It will be very difficult to capture this djinn back into the bottle again. There is complete impunity for those who take law into their own hands...I feel anxious for my children because tomorrow if a mob surrounds them and asks, 'Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?' they will have no answer. It worries me that I don't see the situation improving anytime soon," Shah added.
Khan also said if justice was not given to the weak then it will only lead to uprising. "The people of East Pakistan were not given their rights which was the main reason behind the creation of Bangladesh," he said.
Khan’s statement came days after the US government added Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia along with a few other countries to a blacklist of nations where violating religious freedom and the rights of minorities is on the rise. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the US government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, at least 19 people were put on death row in 2017 after being convicted of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, and hundreds awaited trial. Most of the people facing these blasphemy charges are members of minority groups.
Meanwhile, eminent intellectuals on Saturday said it was a matter of grave concern the way the organisers of the Ajmer Literature Festival called off an event, set to be addressed by Shah, after protests by right-wing groups over the actor's remarks.
In a statement issued here legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee, Bengali actors Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Paran Bandyopadhyay, theatre personality Kaushik Sen, director Kamaleswar Mukherjee, director Anik Dutta, and others said, "The way an actor of Naseeruddin Shah's stature was being humiliated and institute was deplorable."
(With PTI inputs)