Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan turned 50 on Monday and added his voice to growing protests by the intelligentsia over 'climate of intolerance', saying there was "extreme intolerance" in the country.
Voicing his feelings over the 'growing intolerance' and return of awards by filmakers, science and writers, Shah Rukh said he would not hesitate to give up his awards as a "symbolic gesture" if he has to but feels he does not have to do so.
Padma Shri is among the awards in Shah Rukh's kitty.
Shah Rukh, who has a string of hits from "Baazigar" to "Chennai Express" over a career spanning 27 years, was flooded with birthday wishes from his friends and colleagues including Salman Khan and hailed as an "energetic and inspiring" actor.
"There is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance... there is I think... there is growing intolerance," Shah Rukh told India Today TV.
"It is stupid... It is stupid to be intolerant and this is our biggest issue not just an issue...Religious intolerance and not being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime that you can do as a patriot," he said.
Asked whether he will give up his Padma Shri award, Shah Rukh responded, "I mean just for a symbolic gesture, yes, if I have to."
At the same time, he said, "respect those who returned awards, but I don't have to."
"People put words into the air even before thinking and here is a secular country. Here is a country perhaps for the last 10 years that is on the cusp of going beyond what we think," Shah Rukh, said elaborating his views on the growing intolerance.
Shah Rukh also responded to criticism about actors not participating in the protest and raising their voices.
He stressed that being a star, it was tough for him to take a stand on every moral issue. "We may talk about freedom of speech, but people come outside my house and throw stones..."
"If I do take a stand, I’ll stand by it," he stressed.
The star also said that no one can and should ever question his patriotism.
"We will never be a superpower if we are not going to believe that all religions are equal," he added.