Naseeruddin Shah: 'I feel blessed to have breathed in times when people spoke the truth'

The actor was speaking at an art exhibition dedicated to social activist and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar who was assassinated in Pune

Priyanka Chandani Ashutosh M ShuklaUpdated: Saturday, October 29, 2022, 12:49 PM IST
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Naseeruddin Shah at exhibition, We are on Trial | File

Famous American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, 'Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time'. Actor Naseeruddin Shah reminded of these verses at an inauguration of an art exhibition, We are on Trial at Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan, today.

The five-day-long art exhibition is organised to mark social activist and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar's upcoming birth anniversary on November 1, who was assassinated in 2013 in Pune and the judicial trial of his murder is still going on after 10 years. The artworks depicted Dabholkar's life and his social work through various art pieces by the artists.

Actor Naseeruddin Shah while talking at the event said that he is proud to have lived in the era when there were people who inspired him including Dabholkar. "Many have been killed and many are in Jail, and their only crime is to speak the truth. I feel this is not happening only in India but also neighbouring countries," said the veteran actor.

He also mentioned that it is not only in India where people who speak the truth are killed, the neighboring countries are also practicing it, referring to Salman Taseer, a Pakistani businessman who was also assassinated in Islamabad by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who disagreed with Taseer's opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law. He also lauded the women fighting against the Hijab law in Iran.

"They are fighting against obscure Hijab law keeping their life at stake. People like me feel blessed to have breathed in that environment where people like Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, M M Kalburgi, Pansare, and Gauri Lankesh lived who spoke the truth in their own way," said the actor.

The actor also recalled his childhood when his religious teacher (Maulavi) would teach him the idea of the other world after death and how the earth is flat and it doesn't revolve around the sun. "I was five years old and I used to get goosebumps to see his confidence," he added. Later, the actor narrated a story of Hindi satirist Harishankar Parsai's story Bhed aur Bhediya - a satire on the political system.

Dabolkar was known for his campaigns against superstitions, confronting dubious tantriks for claiming to cure ailments through miracles. He also criticised the country's 'godmen', seld-styled Hindu ascetics who claim to perform a miracle to have many followers.

Advocate Abhay Nevgi who is fighting Dabholkar's case was also present at the event. "The CBI said that they would be sending bullets to Scotland Yard. For months they waited and then said there is no treaty between the Government of India and the US. I have fought with public officers and judges who lost clients but I am not going to give up," said Nevgi.

Dr. Shailatai, wife of Dabholkar reminisced about her husband's capacity to fight and win. "Dr. Dabholkar always said Vichar (thoughts) needs Kruti (action). He was always willing to fight," said Dr. Shailatai.

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