The worried Indian

The intimidatory power of the mob made itself felt once again when the Ajmer Literature Festival abruptly cancelled veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah’s keynote address. This followed the torrent of abuse heaped on Mr. Shah by a loose coalition of persons, ranging from anonymous trolls on social media to functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party, after he spoke about the dangerous amount of power that mobs wield in India. In a reference to the violence over allegations of cow carcasses found in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district this month that led to the killing of a police officer and another person, he spoke of the growing insecurity over being targeted by vigilante groups. “There is complete impunity for those who take law into their own hands,” said Mr. Shah. “I feel anxious thinking about my children.” Unfortunately, in this climate of hyper-nationalism, even an expression of anxiety is twisted out of context and portrayed as disloyalty to the nation. As Mr. Shah has explained, he was only speaking as a worried Indian about a country he loves. But amid the acrimonious outburst against him, no one cares to listen. A fringe group in Uttar Pradesh has offered him a one-way ticket to Karachi. And State BJP chief Mahendranath Pandey suggested, outrageously, that Mr. Shah was growing into the character of the Pakistani agent he had played in a film.

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