All hell-and on the news channels, all yell-has broken loose as Anupam Kher has been denied a visa to attend the Karachi Literary Festival. He was the only one in an Indian delegation of 18, to be so singled out. Livid and not willing to take the snub lying down Anupam lashes out in an interview with Subhash K Jha.
What is the latest development on this issue?
Well, the Pakistani high commissioner has been kind enough to offer me a visa to visit Pakistan after a stink was raised, if I apply. But I was never supposed to apply for a visa to be part of the delegation. To her credit Ameena Saiyid, the organizer of the Karachi Literary Festival stood by me. That was very commendable. I salute her. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for her to lie her way out of this crisis.
So are you going?
No I can't go any more, as I've already given away that time for some other event. See, if it was something happening in my own country I'd have fought and gone to attend. But to fight for the right to attend an event in another country and to finally have them condescend to grant me the right to enter their country, is not right.
More than the denial of a visa, I think it's shameful that others are going head to Karachi without you?
That's their choice. All my life I've fought all my battles on my own. If I was in their place I wouldn't go. That doesn't mean Barkha Dutta or Nandita Das should feel the same way. But we can't hold grudges. But sadly someone like Nandita Das says I didn't have the common sense to apply for a visa. What sort of solidarity can I expect from someone who says something like this? Do I need to get lessons in common sense from her?
Apparently you didn't apply for a visa?
But I wasn't supposed to! Even Nandita Das and the other delegates didn't apply for it. But their NOC (No Objection Certificate) came. Mine didn't. They had problems with only my NOC.
Is it because you have been speaking up against those who are talking about intolerance and returning their national awards?
Ameena, the director of the Karachi Literary Festival, thinks so. She feels the reason for denying me a visa could be because I've spoken about Kashmiri Pandits and tolerance/intolerance issues. I've also spoken up strongly whenever terror attacks have happened in our country, blaming Pakistan for the attacks. Yeh toh duniya jaanti hai (the world knows it). Yet I wanted to go to Karachi for a direct interaction with Pakistan's people. At such events one can address issues in a non-political atmosphere.
A number of distinguished Bollywood personalities like Gulzar, Naseeruddin Shan, Javed and Shabana Azmi visit Pakistan when they are invited. After what happened with you, should we continue with biryani politics?
I think besides a large appetite, India has a very large heart. We accept and welcome the Pakistani singers and actors. People from Bollywood should go to Pakistan. Some of them have historical roots in that part of the world from undivided India. Some of them have ancestral homes and many of them have a fan following there. The problem is not between the people of the two countries. The problem is political.
Yes, but the politics affects the relations between the people?
It should not. I feel bad for those Pakistanis who were looking forward to meeting me. I am upset about that, not about the denial of the visa. I saw my visit as a part of the process of improving relations between the two countries.
If invited to Pakistan again will you go?
Of course! By all means. Main koi rootha nahin hoon. I am not upset with Pakistan for denying me a visa. I am baffled, and a bit hurt.
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