NEW DELHI: Popular Indian film actor Shah Rukh Khan has stirred a controversy by joining in the debate of rising intolerance in India, angering some extreme elements in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with some even calling him a traitor.
Recently, while interacting with the media and his fans on his birthday, the Bollywood superstar spoke out against rising levels of intolerance in India. He said: "The one thing I truly believe in is if there is intolerance to creativity and if there is intolerance to the country because of religion, we are taking away every forward step that the nation is taking."
But members of the BJP have criticised Mr Khan, saying he is attacking their administration. They even compared him to international terrorists. BJP lawmaker Yogi Adityanath said: "These people are speaking the language of militants. I think there is no difference in the language of Shah Rukh Khan and Hafiz Saeed."
Some politicians of the BJP have attacked the actor not just in television interviews but also on social media, terming him as a “traitor” who supports India's Pakistan. However, senior members of the BJP have distanced themselves from these remarks.
Several supporters of the popular actor have come out in his defence, and attacked the BJP. Said Indian actor Raza Murad: "This country is not anyone's personal property. We don't need anyone's permission, sympathy or certificate to live here."
Mr Khan has not retracted his comments, saying he is very much an Indian and stands by his views. One of the most popular film stars in India, Mr Khan is respected for his well-informed views on issues of national and international importance.
Just three years ago, he was detained at a US airport by security officials, and his comment to them “I am Khan and I am not a terrorist” - alluding to his Muslim faith - gave him a cult status for speaking out against racial profiling.