Anupam Kher leads delegation to meet Mukherjee, Modi
Well-known actor Anupam Kher today led a march by writers, filmmakers and artistes to Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest against the decision by several renowned intellectuals to return their national awards to voice their concern about what they describe as the "growing intolerance" in the country.
Mr Kher and the others said the campaign to return the awards was aimed at defaming the country by projecting a "wrong" picture of the situation.
Mr. Kher, whose wife, actress Kiron Kher, is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of the Lok Sabha from Chandigarh, and the others met President Pranab Mukherjee and handed over a memorandum to him.
Later, talking to journalists, he quoted Mr. Mukherjee as saying that awards were not given by the government but by the people of the nation. Mr Mukherjee also emphasised the secular foundation of the country's Constitution," he said.
"India is a very tolerant country. Some people have coined the term 'growing intolerance'. They are very few. Not every Indian thinks like that. We are secular people. We do not believe in pseudo-secularism, selective outrage or selective patriotism," Mr Kher said.
He said several writers, artistes and filmmakers they met also believed that there was no intolerance in the country.
"This march is a symbolic gesture on part of a lot of people over here who say India is one and free of intolerance," he said.
Those who joined the march today included Madhur Bhandarkar, Ashoke Pandit, Priyadarshan, Manoj Joshi, Abhijeet Bhattacharya and Madhu Kishwar.
Mr. Bhandarkar alleged that those who were protesting against "intolerance" had opposed Mr Modi before his election as Prime Minister and that fact raised questions about their motives.
"The projection that is happening for the past few days is very sad. The people who were against Modiji during elections are the same people who are coming out right now.
"The whole projection and narrative that is going abroad is wrong. It is a diverse country and of course there are incidents but we all condemn them. There is no two ways about it," he said.
Mr. Kher said they were not aligned with any political party or other organisation. "This march is led by Indians and for Indians," he said.
Mr. Kher also later led a delegation of 51 artistes and writers to meet Mr. Modi and submitted a memorandum to him.
"They expressed concern over what they described as a protest with a political agenda by a section of people to tarnish the image of the country, and derail the development initiatives of the Prime Minister," an official press release said.
The Prime Minister stated that Indian culture goes beyond tolerance, and talks of acceptance, it added.