The BJP on Wednesday termed actor Aamir Khan’s utterances on intolerance a “moral crime”, reflecting the sense of alarm in the ruling dispensation over popular icons joining the debate.

While the government has agreed to a debate in Parliament over rising incidence of ‘intolerance’, the lynching of a man on suspicions of consuming beef and the ‘Award Wapsi’ by artists, writers and film-makers, the ruling BJP launched a blistering attack on the popular film actor who had said that rising intolerance led to his wife suggesting that the family should move out of India.

The ruling party responded with aggression on the issue that has led to sharp political divisions – the entire Opposition has been blaming the BJP for the rise in majoritarian sentiment and fear among minorities, especially Muslims.

BJP spokesperson MJ Akbar accused the actor of “defaming the country”. “It is a moral crime to defame the country for your personal purposes. Instead of asking his few friends how they feel, he (Aamir Khan) should have asked [the] 125 crore people of India. He would have got a correct answer,” Akbar said.

Although he did not accuse the actor outright of tailoring his comments to suit the Opposition’s agenda, Akbar said: “There are forces against our development. They want to destroy our image…I am told he is related to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, I wish he would listen to some of the things he [Azad] said about Partition.”

Akbar also referred to Prime Minister Modi's speech at an election rally in Bihar last month, where the latter had exhorted Hindus and Muslims to “fight poverty together”.

‘People being misled’

Parliamentary Affairs M Venkaiah Naidu asserted that “some people are misleading and some people are misled”.

With reference to Khan’s statement, Naidu said: “Who comes in which category, I do not want to say. Some are propagating wrong things, some are coming under wrong propaganda. My suggestion is that the situation in India is better than any other country. There is more tolerance in India. People of India are tolerant.”

Rahman reacts

Meanwhile, the debate on the social media sharpened further with composer AR Rahman terming as “poetic” the trend among writers and film-makers to return their national awards to protest.

Rahman, who had converted to Islam early in life and has been invited by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to re-convert to Hinduism while also being targeted by Islamic groups for composing music for the Iranian film Muhammad: The Prophet of God , said he empathised with Khan. “I had gone through a similar situation a couple of months ago,” Rahman said in an interview.

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