- Naseeruddin Shah was to deliver a speech at Literature Festival
- It has been cancelled amid protests by right wing groups
- Mr Shah had said more importance was given to cow's death than man's
An event at the Literature Festival in Rajasthan's Ajmer where Naseeruddin Shah was to deliver a keynote address this evening has been cancelled amid protests by right wing groups over the veteran actor's comments on the Bulandshahr mob killing of a police officer earlier this month.
Groups including the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, shouted slogans at the LitFest venue against Naseeruddin Shah, who had in an interview with an NGO earlier this week remarked that the death of cows was being given more importance than the death of a policeman.
"It has been called off keeping in mind the security and safety of Naseeruddin Shah and the venue. Also honour the sentiments of the people of Ajmer," a member of the Literature Society told NDTV on the phone.
There is no word yet on the response of the new Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government that took over in Rajasthan this week after the BJP's defeat in state polls.
Naseeruddin Shah, 68, left Ajmer after attending a program at his old school in the afternoon. Defending his remarks today, Naseeruddin Shah had said that he spoke as a "worried Indian" who has every right to express concerns about the country he loves.
In an interview aired by NGO Karwan-e-Mohabbat on Monday, the actor had said there are places in the country where the death of a cow is given more importance than that of a policeman. "There is complete impunity for those who take law into their own hands," he had said, adding that he fears for his children.
Following the backlash over his comments, he said today: "I have said this earlier as well. What did I say this time that I am being called a traitor? It is very strange."
Naseeruddin Shah's comments came amid mounting criticism over the Uttar Pradesh administration's response to the killing of police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh in mob frenzy over cow slaughter allegations on December 3 in Bulandshahr.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been facing criticism for focusing more on the cow killing in a meeting he had with senior officials just after the policeman's murder. He had ordered strict action against those behind the cow carcasses found in a forest, which provoked the mob violence.
Naseeruddin Shah has faced heavy criticism from some right wing groups, with some asking him to leave the country if he was comfortable living here. While Amit Jani, president of the Navnirman Sena, booked him a one-way ticket to Pakistan, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Mahendranath Pandey likened him to a character he had played in the 1999 movie "Sarfarosh".
"Naseeruddin Shah is a good artist... In one of his movies, he played the role of a Pakistani agent. I think he is growing into that character now," Mr Pandey said.