Two days after Naseeruddin Shah expressed concerns over communal intolerance in India, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said the veteran actor needn't fear for his children because "tolerance is in the country's DNA".
"Naseeruddin Shah's words were probably misconstrued, and a mountain was made out of a molehill. India is a tolerant country. Tolerance and harmony are in the DNA of the country, and nobody has succeeded in destroying its strong legacy until now," Mr Naqvi told news agency PTI.
"There is no need for him to fear for his children. The country is moving ahead on the basis of the constitution, and in a democratic country, there is no need to fear anybody," the Union Minister said.
Mr Shah, who has starred in Bollywood classics such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and Ishqiya, found himself in the centre of a raging controversy after he decried the manner in which "the death of a cow is being given more importance than the death of a police officer" in India these days.
The actor was referring to the killing of a police officer by a mob in Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr two weeks ago, after right-wing activists allegedly found carcasses of bovines near the venue of a Muslim function. The state government's response to his death was strangely subdued. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claimed that the officer's death was an accident, and instead ordered an overarching probe into the alleged cattle slaughter. Uttar Pradesh Inspector General Ram Kumar expressed a similar sentiment.
Mr Naqvi then went on to taunt National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah for lauding Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the party's electoral wins in the recent state polls. "Farooq Abdullah is right in saying that Rahul Gandhi is not a 'Pappu' anymore. He has now become a 'Gappu' -- a loudmouth who spreads rumours," he said.
On the ongoing debate over the caste of Lord Hanuman, the minister said the Hindu god should not be pushed into any kind of controversy because he is worshipped and respected by the people. "Serving Lord Ram and fighting against evil was his only message and his real caste," the Union Minister said.
(With inputs from PTI)