Complaints of intolerance have intensified since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi’s inauguration in 2014 and contributed to his BJP party’s defeat in the populous northern state of Bihar several weeks ago. Now, Bollywood star Aamir Khan has joined the chorus of artists and intellectuals decrying the trend.
After accusations that he was being unpatriotic, Khan has refused to back down, according to The Times of India:
“I stand by everything I have said. To all the people shouting obscenities at me for speaking my heart out, it saddens me to say you are only proving my point,” Aamir Khan said in a statement.
“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,” Aamir says in the 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,” he says.
That one of Bollywood’s top stars (most of whom are Muslim) is taking on the Hindutva movement brings India’s messy identity politics into some focus. Prime Minister Modi was elected in part because the secular Congress ideology was failing to create a national purpose and a set of unifying values. But the only real alternative, Hindu nationalism, alienates India’s sizable minority groups. Ethnic tensions in India have been known to turn violent, notably under Modi’s watch in the Indian state of Gujarat. That ever-present possibility, combined with the domestic effects of a flagging world economy, are cause for concern.