NEW DELHI/KARACHI: Actor Anupam Kher has been denied a visa by the Pakistan government to attend a literary festival in Karachi.
The actor thinks the decision had something to do with the fact he is a Kashmiri Pandit and that he has frequently spoken up about their plight in Kashmir.
He also thinks his vehement support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the free speech issue won him no friends in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
The actor is known to be a BJP sympathiser.
The high commission itself explained that Kher had not even applied for a visa and therefore there was no question of denying or giving one to him.
But the high commission revealed only a part of the story. The organisers of the Karachi Literary Festival (KLF) said they were advised by the high commission in New Delhi to advise Kher in advance not to submit a visa application as he would not be issued one.
Kher said this was the third time he has been denied a visa by Pakistan.
The actor was among 18 Indians invited to the four-day literary festival, starting on Friday. Except Kher, all the other invitees, including Congress leader Salman Khurshid and actor Nandita Das, were givens visas.
"I am not angry. I am hurt, upset. I want to know the reason. Out of 18 why was I singled out," he told reporters in Mumbai.
"It could be either because I am a Kashmiri Pandit or that I applauded my Prime Minister on the cultural intolerance issue. Otherwise, there is no logical reason why a visa would be denied to me," he said.
Ameena Syed, spokesperson for KLF, said, "We were only told to tell Kher not to apply. They (the high commission) told us that the remaining 17 guests from India should be asked to submit their applications as they would be issued visas."
Kher called the High Commission's half truth a "lie", saying that Pakistan's Interior Ministry did not send a clearance for his visa even though the KLF organisers pursued the matter vigorously with it.
Kher said he would like the Indian government to take up the matter with the Pakistani authorities.
Publisher Ashok Chopra, who was to address a session along with Kher, said he would now pull out of the festival in solidarity with the actor.
Nandita Das said the visa issue has been dogged by claims and counter-claims.
But Kher took this opportunity to take a dig at those who talked up about intolerance in India. "They should now come forward on this issue," he said.
Kher produced a series of e-mail communications with KLF organisers on the visa issue and accused the Pakistani mission of trying to mislead the public.
Kher said the visa denial has left the festival organisers embarrassed and apologetic to him.
The actor said he would have pulled out of the Karachi trip if he had been among the 17 people granted a visa and if one of his colleagues was refused this document without reason.
The actor said, "I am very sad and disappointed. We welcome their artistes in India. If there are objections to their performances at one place in India they are welcome at other places. But there is no reciprocity."