The organisers of the Ajmer Literature Festival on Friday called off an event, set to be addressed by Naseeruddin Shah, after protests by right-wing groups over the actor’s recent remarks on mob violence.
The veteran actor found himself at the centre of a major controversy over his remarks in reference to the killing of a policeman in Bulandshahr earlier this month.
He said the death of a cow was being given importance over killing of a policeman.
The 68-year-old actor was supposed to deliver the keynote address of the fifth edition of the three-day literature festival here.
Before the event, many right-wing activists protested outside the venue. One of the protesters also hurled black ink on the poster of Shah.
Raas Bihari Gaur, coordinator of the festival, said, “Shah was scheduled to inaugurate the festival but he did not come because of the protest by some locals over his comments.”
He was also scheduled to launch his book in the opening session, which was also called off due to the protests.
He said the festival, however, kicked off on Friday and will conclude on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, Shah visited his alma mater, St Anselm’s Senior Secondary School, where he was asked by the reporters about the backlash he is receiving on social media following his remarks.
“What I said earlier was as a worried Indian. I have said this earlier as well. What did I say this time that I am being called a traitor? It is very strange,” Shah said.
“I have to bear criticism. If they have the right to criticise, then I also have the same right. I am expressing concerns about the country I love, the country that is my home. How is that a crime?” he asked.
The actor had expressed anxiety over the growing mob violence in a video interview with Karwan-e-Mohabbat India, which the organisation shared on its YouTube channel on Monday.
In the interview, the actor expressed concern over the well-being of his children, who he said have not been brought up as followers of any particular religion.
Shah said the “poison has already spread” and it will now be 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. In many areas we are witnessing that the death of a cow is more significance than that of a police officer,” he added.
On December 3, Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh and a youth, Sumit Kumar, were killed in mob violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district after cow carcasses were found strewn around.
The main accused in the case is a local Bajrang Dal leader, Yogesh Raj.