Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Friday spoke out in favour of Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut, who had said Mumbai felt “like Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”, and slammed the Shiv Sena for saying the movie star should not return to the city.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Mr Athawale, president of the Republican Part of India and an ally of the BJP which rules the centre, said while he did not know the entire truth, but comments by Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut were “absolutely uncalled for”.
“Raut is a good friend of mine. He is a Shiv Sena leader, a party spokesperson as well as the Saamana editor. I don't know the entire truth but if at all he has threatened the actress it is quite unfortunate. We are all with Ranaut and family in her fight for justice to Sushant Singh Rajput,” Mr Athawale said.
The BJP distanced itself from Ms Ranaut's remarks but some leaders condemned Shiv Sena protests against the actor.
The women's wing of the Shiv Sena had carried out protests against her in Mumbai and Thane, and had shouted slogans as well as slapped slippers on her photographs and effigies.
Taking to Twitter, former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis's wife Amruta Fadnavis said, “We may not agree with what someone has to say, but we must defend the right to express in democracy! Freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom of movement, freedom of press-cannot b suppressed! We can have counter arguments but beating posters of critics with chappals is a new low.”
Former state minister and BJP leader Ashish Shelar, meanwhile, said, “We completely disagree with Kangana's comments about Mumbai and residents of this city. I also want to ask Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut not to attack BJP from the shoulders of actor Ranaut.”
Kangana Ranaut triggered widespread outrage on Thursday for saying the city “felt like Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” and doubled down on the remarks a day later, compared the ruling coalition to “Taliban”.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said she had no right to stay in Mumbai if she feels unsafe and had such disparaging things to say for the police force that was sacrificing its lives in times of the coronavirus pandemic.