Actor Deepika Padukone’s gesture of solidarity towards the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University – an unexpected visit where she refused to speak to the media — has been slammed by a section of BJP leaders and ministers. Calling it support for the “tukde tukde gang”, they have suggested that people boycott her movies. But Union Minister Prakash Javadekar clarified the matter, saying anyone can go anywhere and have their opinion on any issue. “There can be no objection to it,” he added. When pressed that BJP leaders were supporting her boycott, he said he was the party’s national spokesperson.
Ms Padukone, one of the most popular actors in the industry, had visited the university last evening as a protest by the students against Sunday’s attack by masked goons was on. She had refused to speak to the media, saying she had come just to show solidarity. Images of her standing shoulder to shoulder with the attacked students, including students’ union chief Aishe Ghosh, drew much admiration.
But criticism started soon after, with the BJP’s Tejinder Bagga tweeting, “RT if you will Boycott Movies of @deepikapadukone for her Support to #TukdeTukdeGang and Afzal Gang”.
Hashtags #BoycottChhapaak and #shameonbollywood started trending — Chhapaak being Ms Padukone’s movie to be released on January 10, where she plays an acid attack survivor.
Shahnawaz Hussein said she should have taken “proper cognisance of violence” and her show of solidarity with Leftist organisations reflected her “one-sided thinking”.
Condemning Ms Padukone’s visit to JNU, BJP leader Ram Kadam said it was “unfortunate” and that she should have visited the place with “an agenda of national interest”. “An actor should be an actor. It seems like she was the spokesperson of a political party,” he told reporters.
Asking people to boycott “Chhapaak”, Delhi leader Ramesh Bidhuri said a Bollywood star is supposed to give a “positive message” to youth in the country through movies instead of being seen with those who are against the country.
The comments of the BJP leaders raised dust on Twitter, with many questioning why the government was taking sides in what the police and the university have claimed was a clash between students. Students affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP, linked to the BJP, have accused the Left students of attacking them.The Left students said the ABVP, along with outsiders, launched a surprise attack on the campus, in which 19 students and five faculty members were injured.
Asked about the issue, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said he had not read the remarks. Then he added, “Why only artistes, any common man can go anywhere to express his opinion, there cannot be any objection”.