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Mumbai: The jury is still out on whether this is just the angst of a sensitive actor, a voice of sanity or a broad generalisation that is not anchored in reality. It is with an extreme sense of foreboding that actor Naseeruddin Shah has said that he is worried about children in today’s India. He is apprehensive because he imagines a situation where his children may be surrounded by an angry mob and asked: “Are you Hindu or Muslim?” “My children will have no answer,” Shah says, “Because we chose not to give a religious education to our children.

Shah explains that there is a “poison” that permeates the Indian society. “It will be very difficult to capture this djinn [genie] and tuck it back into the bottle. Those who take the law into their own hands operate with impunity,” Naseeruddin says, warming up to his theme. “We have already witnessed that the death of a cow has more significance in today’s India than that of a police officer,” he adds in a veiled reference to the Bulandshahr killing.

He further talks about how he and his wife Ratna Pathak were brought up. “I was given a religious education…But Ratna did not get any religious education…And we chose not to give a religious education to our children,” Naseeruddin says. So I fear for my children…Because if a mob gathers around them and asks them are you a Hindu or Muslim, they will not have any answer…Because they have no religion,” Naseeruddin says, before signing off with: “I am angry and I believe every right-thinking man must be angry and must not fear.”

Shah’s comments were put online by Karwan-e-Mohabbat India (Caravan of Love), a travelling activist collective. Rajya Sabha MP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue Rakesh Sinha’s response was barbed. “Naseeruddin Shah should first ask Rohingyas to leave Hindustan as according to him India is unsafe for him and his family,” Sinha said in a tweet before suggesting that Shah was becoming part of a “sinister design of anti-civil society propaganda”. Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant dubbed his statement “a blunder.” He added, “If his kids are caught in a mob they should say they are Indians. Why are they scared?”

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