Veteran film and stage actor Naseeruddin Shah has weighed in on what many term as ongoing polarisation in the country, saying it was ‘essential’ for Muslims in India to stop feeling victimised and persecuted, and assert their claim on India.
“It seems essential for Muslims in India to get over the feeling of victimisation they are in now; it is a trap all too easy to stumble into – we must determine to stop feeling persecuted, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding; we must stop hoping for salvation from somewhere and take matters into our own hands- not least of all to take pride in our Indian-ness and assert our claim on our country,” Shah wrote in The Hindustan Times.
Shah claimed that it was for the first time in the country that pleas for peace and rational statements of concern, not just from Muslims have been interpreted as cowardly or seditious. “It is almost as if the day was being awaited when this could be done,” he said.
In his piece, as part of the Being Muslim Now series, Shah also argued that the on-going political ploy of labelling Muslims as outsiders will be abandoned when it has outlived its usefulness, but what might happen in the interim is another matter. “The visible increase in the sight of saffron scarves and tilaks, as well as on the other side beards, hijabs and topis in a country where barely ten years ago in most states (Maharashtra, Bengal, Kerala to name only three) Hindus were indistinguishable from Muslims, is cause for apprehension but this assertion of the club you belong to and the waving of its flag was waiting to happen.”
In 2015, Shah faced criticism for his comments on Pakistan and claimed that he was targetted for his identity.
“My name is Naseeruddin Shah and I believe that’s why I was targeted. It really pains me to say this. I have never ever been aware of my identity until now,” the 66-year-old actor had said, speaking to a news channel.
Shah, referring to the then ‘award wapsi’ controversy, had also said: “I wish that the protest had been made through their work. I wish those writers, instead of returning their awards, had written more strongly on what is happening to India in protest.”