Cong claims under Modi rule no artiste can protest; govt asserts everyone can express their opinion

New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) Amid calls by some BJP leaders to boycott Deepika Padukone's films in the wake of her joining protesting JNU students, the Congress on Wednesday alleged that under Modi rule no artiste can protest, join a cause or has the right to express, but Union minister Prakash Javadekar asserted that everyone can express their opinion in a democracy.

The Congress hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to 'stop crushing' India's soul after BJP leaders gave a call for boycott of Padukone's film 'Chhapaak' in the wake of her visit to JNU campus in support of protesting students.

Nobody objected to such expression of opinions, Javadekar told reporters when asked at a Cabinet briefing about Padukone's visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University on Tuesday to express solidarity with the students who were attacked by a mob.

About the call given by some party functionaries to boycott her upcoming movie, he said he has not read their remarks but sought to underscore the significance of his statement, by asserting he is stating so as a minister and a 'permanent' BJP spokesperson.

'This country is a democracy. Why only artistes, even a common can go anywhere and express his opinion,' the information and broadcasting minister said.

To questions about violence in JNU where masked people attacked students on Sunday night, Javadekar expressed confidence that the ongoing police probe will 'unmask' the accused and asserted that violence has no place in a 'mature democracy' like India.

The Congress sharpened its attack on the government alleging that according to Modi and his 'bhakts', no artiste can protest or join a cause and has no right to express.

'Modiji, Stop crushing India's soul! As per you and your Bhakts - 1. No artist can protest. 2. No artist shall join a cause. 3. No artist has a right to express.

'Chappak is not about an artist but 1,000 women who suffer acid attacks on their body and soul every year. Isn't this the same,' Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera also took a swipe at the BJP, asking whether Padukone should visit the RSS headquarters in Nagpur instead of JNU.

'The ruling party has reduced (itself) to indulging in petty social media polls, faking videos. Should she (Padukone) go to Nagpur, the Sangh headquarters, to promote her movie? What do they want this country to be,' he asked.

Khera claimed the government is filing FIRs against students and youth instead of hearing them out.

'If someone is showing concern to the protesting youth, you raise questions on him/her,' he said, alleging the ruling BJP claims it is the world's largest party but it has a 'small heart'.

'If there is unrest across universities, we expect the Prime Minister to go there, we expect the Home Minister, the senior leader of the BJP to go and listen to the youth of this country, whichever campus we are talking about,' he said in reference to protests by youth and students on various campuses.

On Padukone's visit to the JNU and the BJP's criticism of it, Khera alleged the ruling party sees 'bad intent' everywhere.

He alleged that the prime minister, home minister and other BJP leaders have never heard or answered the youth on their problems.

Earlier in the day, South Delhi BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri asked people to boycott 'Chhapaak' for Padukone's support to the 'tukde-tukde gang'.

He 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.

On Tuesday evening, Padukone made a surprise visit to the JNU to express solidarity with the students who had been attacked. PTI SKC KR NAB ZMN