Under attack over his remarks on intolerance, Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan on Wednesday asserted that he stood by his comments and made it clear that neither he nor his wife Kiran Rao have any intention of leaving the country.
Aamir, 50, who drew flak from the Bharatiya Janata Party and a section of film fraternity for expressing his "alarm and despondency" over the rise in recent incidents of intolerance, came out with a statement, saying he is "proud to be an Indian".
"First let me state categorically that neither I nor my wife Kiran have any intention of leaving the country. We never did, and nor would we like to in the future.
"Anyone implying the opposite has either not seen my interview or is deliberately trying to distort what I have said. India is my country, I love it, I feel fortunate for being born here, and this is where I am staying," he said.
The actor had kicked up a political storm with his remarks at a function in Delhi on Monday about his wife expressing fear for their child in the current atmosphere.
He had said, "Kiran and I have lived all our life in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India... She fears for her child, she fears about what the atmosphere around us will be."
In his statement on Wednesday, a defiant Aamir showed no signs of relenting in the face of fierce criticism.
"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," he said.
BJP had hit out at Aamir, saying "Where will he and his family go other than India? There is no other better country like India and no better neighbour than a Hindu for an Indian Muslim. What is the situation in Muslim countries and Europe. There is intolerance everywhere."
Shielding him from the attack, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had said the government should instead of branding all those who question it and the Prime Minister as "unpatriotic, anti-national or motivated" reach out to people to understand what's disturbing them.
Choreographer-turned-filmaker Farah Khan also came out in support of Aamir Khan, who waded into controversy with his remarks on growing intolerance, and feels it's wrong to attack the actor.
"I was waiting for this particular question. I just want to say that there is no intolerance but when somebody has a point of view everybody jumps on him and attack him," Farah said.
"That is the very definition of intolerance. So, it's ironic that we say 'how can you say we are intolerant'," she said.
In his statement, Aamir said, "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 also thanked those who stood by him.
"To all the people who have stood by me, thank you. We have to protect what this beautiful and unique country of ours really stands for. We have to protect its integrity, diversity, inclusiveness, its many languages, its culture, its history, its tolerance, it's concept of ekantavada, its love, sensitivity and its emotional strength," he said.
The actor ended his statement by quoting Rabindranath Tagore's famous poem, "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments, by narrow domestic walls, Where words come out from the depth of truth,
"Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way, Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, Where the mind is led forward by thee, Into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake."