MUMBAI– Trying to put to rest a huge row over his comment on “growing despondency”, Bollywood actor-producer Aamir Khan said that he and his wife love India and have no intention of leaving the country.
Aamir said in a statement that while he stood by the interview, the avalanche of criticism directed at him and his wife Kiran Rao only proved what he had stated about the situation in the country.
“First, let me state categorically that neither I nor my wife Kiran have any intention of leaving the country. We never did, and nor would we like to in the future,” he said in a statement.
“Anyone implying the opposite has either not seen my interview or is deliberately trying to distort what I have said.
“India is my country, I love it, I feel fortunate for being born here, and this is where I am staying,” said the 50-year-old, one of the top earning stars of Hindi film industry.
“Secondly, I stand by everything that I have said in my interview.
“To all those people who are calling me anti-national, I would like to say that I am proud to be Indian, and I do not need anyone’s permission or endorsement for that.
“To all the people shouting obscenities at me for speaking my heart out, it saddens me to say you are only proving my point.
“To all the people who have stood by me, thank you. We have to protect what this beautiful and unique country of ours really stands for. We have to protect its integrity, diversity, inclusiveness, its many languages, its culture, its history, its tolerance, it’s concept of ‘anekantavada’, its love, sensitivity and its emotional strength.”
The actor ended his statement by quoting Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Where the Mind is Without fear”, calling it a prayer. He signed off with a “Jai Hind”.
At an awards event in New Delhi on Monday, Aamir spoke of “growing despondency” that he said he had felt in India for the last six to eight months.
He had said: “When I sit at home and talk to Kiran, for the first time she said, ‘Should we move out of India?’ Now that’s a very disastrous and a big comment to make to me.”
The comment attracted widespread criticism even as many defended him.
Aamir’s clarification came on a day when the Shiv Sena made another attack on the actor, calling him a “self-appointed mullah” who “poked fun at Hindu religious sentiments through his blockbuster movie ‘PK'”.
It said after making lots of money in India, Aamir “speaks nonsense in the name of freedom of speech… Actually such persons already enjoy too much freedom”.
An editorial in the Sena mouthpiece “Saamna” said: “However, in India, Muslims enjoy complete freedom to practice their religion and all their demands are fulfiled by the governments – yet Aamir’s wife finds this country ‘intolerant’.”
In a related development, online marketplace Snapdeal — whose brand ambassador is Aamir — distanced itself from the actor’s comments, saying he made them in his personal capacity.
On Tuesday, the Hindu Sena staged a noisy protest outside Aamir’s house at Bandra. His effigies were burnt and his posters were blackened.