Talking of Pak doesnt make me anti- India

AFTER Sudheendra Kulkarni, veteran Bollywood actor and stalwart Naseeruddin Shah has landed in controversy for attending former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuris book launch function.

Under fire for saying that good things about Pakistan must be appreciated by India, the veteran actor said that he was being targeted as he had a Muslim name.

That it was the first time he had been reminded of his Muslim identity, Shah said, adding, "My name is Naseeruddin Shah and I believe thats why I was targeted. It really pains me to say this. I have never ever been aware of my identity until now." Shah bared his soul in conversation with India Today consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai.

The event had been attended by Shah, historian AG Noorani and journalist Dileep Padgaonkar. The book had been launched amid stiff protest by the Shiv Sena.

Shah said he was misunderunderstand why I am being picked on," Shah rued.

"Four generations of my family have lived in India. I am proud to be an Indian and I will not allow anybody to question my patriotism," said the 66- year- old actor, asking what was "anti- Indian" about praising the good things about Pakistan.

The actor further said, "I do not actually understand why anything said as a compliment to Pakistan must be construed as anti- Indian," Shah said.

"If I say Imran Khan is great, does that make Sunil Gavaskar any less a cricketer?" he asked.

Intolerance When asked about his view on writers returning their awards in protest against what they maintained was a climate of rising intolerance in the country under the BJP government, Shah said, "I wish that the protest had been made through their works. I wish those writers, instead of returning their awards, had written more strongly on what is happening to India in protest. Awards mean nothing to me and therefore I wont bother returning them," Shah said. He is a recipient of Padma Bhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi and other prestigious awards.

Hate- mongers "Hate- mongers are unfortunately having a field day in India today," Shah said, standing by his earlier comment that it was a pity that performances of a Pakistani artist were disrupted in India, though his Pakistan events never got disrupted.

In response to the Shiv Senas argument that terror and cricket or music could not coexist, Shah said, "The people who sponsor terror arent the same who bring message of peace across the border." " You have to make a difference and couldnt tar everybody with the same brush," he added.

"Its high time" he said when asked if he believes there is any possibility of separating cricket and music from politics. " The fact is that these events are disrupted is an attempt to disrupt any attempt at peace and harmony between the two countries," Shah said.

stood and his comments on Pakistan had been misreported in the media. "I was quite astounded that what I said was reported in news channel where everything I stated was interpreted as being anti- Indian and there was nothing of the sort that I had actually said," he said.

The veteran actor said he was left dejected with the way the incident was reported as the pertinent points raised by other intellectuals who were present at the event was ignored but what he said was picked on and misstatements were made.

"What Noorani and Padgaonkar said was not quoted at all; they raised far more pertinent points than I did. But, what they said was ignored; only what I said was dwelt on. I dont

I wish those writers, instead of returning their awards, had written more strongly on what is happening to India in protest.

My name is Naseeruddin Shah and I believe thats why I was targeted. It really pains me to say this.

I have never ever been aware of my identity until now.

Four generations of my family have lived in India. I am proud to be an Indian and I will not allow anybody to question my patriotism.