New Delhi: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Sunday extended support to Naseeruddin Shah, who is facing criticism over his remark on mob violence and appearance in a video for the Amnesty India against alleged government crackdown on NGOs. Sen claimed that attempts were being made to ‘disturb’ the Bollywood actor.

“We must protest against such attempts to disturb the actor. What is happening (in the country) is objectionable. It should stop,” the 85-year-old economist said, adding,”Losing the ability to tolerate others is a serious cause for concern, it points to the losing of ability to think and analyse.” Sen also asserted that many other institutions in the country were under attack.

Earlier, actor-writer Ashutosh Rana, while reacting to Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘freedom of speech’ video, had said people should not express their opinions in a disgraceful manner. “Freedom and freak out are two different things. I feel there should be freedom of speech and not freak out of speech. In freedom of speech, two persons can have difference of opinions but it is not necessary that we should express our opinions in disgraceful manner,” Ashutosh Rana said, while interacting with reporters.

“I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech and everyone should have complete right to express their opinions but in that course, we should remember that we are not enemies of each other but we just have difference of opinion,” he added.

How the controversy started?

In the 2.13-minute solidarity video for the human rights watchdog Amnesty, Naseeruddin Shah said those who demand rights are being locked up.

“In the name of religion, walls of hate are being erected. Innocents are being killed. The country is awash with horrific hatred and cruelty,” he claimed. He said that those who stand against this “injustice” are having their offices raided, licenses cancelled and bank accounts frozen to silence them so that they are deterred from speaking the truth.

“Is this where our country is headed? Had we dreamt of a country where there was no space for dissent, where only the rich and powerful are heard and where the poorest and most vulnerable are oppressed? Where there once was law, there is now only darkness,” he said in the video in Urdu.

Under the hashtag of #AbkiBaarManavAdhikaar, the Amnesty claimed India has witnessed a massive crackdown on freedom of expression and human rights defenders.

“Let’s stand up for our constitutional values this new year and tell the Indian government that its crackdown must end now,” the Amnesty said. Aakar Patel, a member of the Amnesty India, said it may seem that the odds are against human rights defenders and civil society in India at this moment, but human rights have always won and will this time also.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, as Dr Martin Luther King said, but it bends towards justice. The widespread crackdown on civil society organisations and human rights defenders by the government of India must end immediately,” he said.

Shah stoked a controversy last month when he had said that the death of a cow had more significance than that of a police officer.

He was speaking in the wake of a mob violence that broke out in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr on December 3 over alleged cow slaughter in the Mahaw village. The violence led to the death of two men, including police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh.

“I feel anxious for my children because tomorrow if a mob surrounds them and asks if you are you a Hindu or a Muslim, they will have no answer,” Shah had said.