A day after the government confirmed that he is no longer a part of its vast Incredible India campaign, actor Aamir Khan said, “It is the prerogative of the government to decide whether they need a brand ambassador for any campaign, and if so, who that ambassador should be. I respect the decision of the government to discontinue with my services.”
Mr Khan, 50, triggered a controversy in November over stating his concern that religious intolerance was growing in India.
Last evening, Tourism and Culture minister Mahesh Sharma in an attempt to counter reports that the actor was being punished for those remarks, said that the superstar would not feature in the massive campaign to market India with foreign and other tourists because the government’s contract (reportedly worth nearly Rs 3 crores) with advertising agency McCann Erickson had expired, and it was the agency which had arranged for Mr Khan’s participation.
“I would like to clarify that all public service films I have done till date have all been free of any cost to me,” Mr Khan said in a statement today, stressing that he has been part of the Incredible India campaign for 10 years. “Whether I am brand ambassador or not, India will remain Incredible, and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
In November, Mr Khan expressed his concern about intolerance being displayed towards minorities. He was attacked on social media by many as “anti-national” for his remarks. He had said that his wife, Kiran Rao, said she was so concerned about the atmosphere of intolerance that she had wondered out loud about relocating from India.
Political and other opponents have accused the BJP and its supporters of whipping up religious tensions in different parts of the country, an allegation firmly rebutted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers who say parties like the Congress are trying to discredit the central government.
In September, a man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh was lynched to death after being falsely accused of having beef in his home; rationalist MM Kalburgi was shot dead in Karnataka a few weeks before that.