Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, whose "leaving India" comments linked to the "intolerance" debate had kicked up a huge controversy, on Monday said he never meant that he wanted to leave the country and asserted that India was intolerant.
Asserting that no other country is as diverse as India, Aamir, 50, said, "I was born here and I will die here."
Aamir's comments came on a day when he came under fresh attack from fellow actor Akshay Kumar who said "ups and downs" happen in every nation and one should not start giving "bold" statements.
"I never said India was intolerant or I wanted to leave the country. I also understand the emotions of those who were hurt. I would like to say that my statement was misunderstood and to some extent media is responsible for it. I was born here and I will die here," Aamir said at a press conference on the eve of his 2006 superhit film, Rang De Basanti completing ten years.
"Our country is diverse with so many languages, culture...no other country has so much diversity as India," he said, adding, "Whenever I go abroad I can't stay away from my country more than two weeks. I get homesick".
Aamir's statement last November that he was "alarmed" by a number of incidents and that his wife Kiran Rao even suggested that they should probably leave the country had triggered a nationwide outrage. He was recently replaced as the brand ambassador of 'Incredible India' campaign.
"As an individual, as part of this country as a citizen, we read in the papers what is happening, we see it on the news and certainly, I have been alarmed. I can't deny. I have been alarmed by a number of incidents," he had said when asked to comment on perception of rising intolerance.
"When I chat with Kiran at home, she says 'Should we move out of India?' That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day," he had said.
After the controversy broke out over his remarks, Aamir came out with a clarification, asserting that he stood by what he said and "neither I, nor my wife Kiran, have any intention of leaving the country."
"I stand by everything that I have said in my interview. To all those people who are calling me anti-national, I would like to say that I am proud to be Indian, and I do not need anyone's permission nor endorsement for that. To all the people shouting obscenities at me for speaking my heart out, it saddens me to say you are only proving my point," he had said in his clarification.
Aamir also said that in a society there are people with positive and negative mindsets.
"There are positive and negative people in the society. Negative people spread negativity. I request people not to spread negative things. We are different people but we are one...which is our strength and we should maintain it," he said.
"I feel sad when things are not understood. I would like to maintain unity ...don't believe in dividing or poisoning. I love my country," he added.
Aamir asked people to look at the work he has done in his career of 25 years.
"If I am saying I love my country... I love it. See my work. I am doing a show like "Satyameva Jayate". It's a nation building show. Look at my work in 25 years. I would never say anyone desh drohi (traitor). I was hurt by other people being hurt," he said.
Besides Aamir his wife Kiran Rao too faced lot of criticism.
When asked about it, he said, "I think I shouldn't have said on public platform which she had privately. In India people of different caste stay together... look at my family the husbands of both of my sisters are Hindus, my children are half Hindu, half Muslim. Kiran and I think we are Indians first, we never look at our religion. I am an Indian first and I will always be."