Stating that he is not anxious but angry about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, actor Naseeruddin Shah says he can't produce a birth certificate, like many other Indians, and asks why 70 years of living here is not proof enough of him being a citizen.
The actor, who stressed that he was speaking as a concerned citizen and not a Muslim, said he has contributed to the country in the social and educational spheres and five generations of his family are buried in this land. Shah, one of Hindi cinema's best known actors, joins others from the industry such as Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj and Richa Chadha to speak on the intense debate over the CAA.
"I don't have a birth certificate. I cannot produce one. Does that mean we are all going to be excluded? I do not need any reassurances that Muslims don't need to worry. I am not worried," Shah said in an interview to The Wire.
"If living here for 70 years does not prove me to be an Indian, I don't know what does. I am not afraid, I am not anxious, I am angry that such a law has been imposed on us," the 70-year-old added.
Referring to the protests across the country, he said the youth has risen and suddenly realised they are being trampled upon. The CAA seeks to grant citizenship to migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014, but leaves out Muslims.The government has been saying that the CAA does not target the Muslim community.
"You expect a refugee who is running for his life, who with his meagre belongings trying to outlive a trauma of leaving everything he owned and everything he loved and trying to cross the border to book a ticket to Jeddah? You expect him to go to UAE?" Shah asked.
He said he was not speaking as a Muslim and had never thought of himself as one. "I have not seen it as an obstacle in anyway," he added.
What hurt the most, Shah said, was the "contempt" for the student community and intellectuals.
There's no leader in this movement, it's all spontaneous anger that is arising. If you dismiss the anger of the youth, you are creating dangers for yourself. That's all I can say, he said.
Shah also spoke about the silence of big stars of the industry. "As far as the established figures are considered, it's understandable why they don't speak up. One does wonder how much do they have to lose? Haven't you made enough to last you seven generations?"
"It does seem to be like that. Loss of popularity, loss of revenue will it kill you? The star is basically concerned with themselves and not other people around, otherwise there would be more parity."
The outspoken actor, who has been vocal on many issues in the past, also praised Deepika Padukone, who went to the Jawaharlal Nehru University during a public meeting and stood silently behind student leaders. "You have to laud the courage of a girl like Deepika who is in the top... and yet takes a step like this. Let us see how she takes this. She'll lose a few endorsements, sure. Will that impoverish her? Will that lessen her popularity? Will that make her less beautiful than she is?"
"The only god that the film industry worships is money," he added caustically.
Asked about instances of period films being made to rewrite history, the actor said there was nothing new in it. "The film industry has always pandered to those in power. There is too money at stake. They do what pleases the centre. I really wonder how much conviction there is in these filmmakers who are helping rewrite history and what is the purpose of it."
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