NEW DELHI: Even as well-known actor Anupam Kher claimed that his support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and championing Kashmiri Pandits’ cause had led to his blacklisting for travel to Pakistan for a literary festival, the Pakistan High Commission asserted that the only reason he didn’t get a visa was that he did not submit an application.
At a press conference in Mumbai, Kher said that he was only one in a group of 18 invitees from India who did not get a visa to attend the Karachi Literary festival.Kher said the process of application was that the organisers had to get a no-objection certificate from the authorities in Pakistan. If the green signal was given, he would have submitted his application to the High Commission.
“I did not personally ask for a visa, the organizers of Karachi Literature Festival did,” he told reporters.
The press conference was convened after the High Commission issued a statement in the morning, denying any visa application was received on behalf of Kher. “It may be clarified that High Commission never received Mr Kher’s visa application. So the question of issuing or denying him visa does not arise,” said High Commission spokesperson Manzoor Ali Memon.Kher accused the high commission of “lying” and produced a series of email conversations between his office and the KLF organisers. The actor, who recently received the Padma Bhushan, accused the High Commission of “lies”.
“I am not angry, I am hurt, upset and somewhere wanting to know the reason. Out of 18 why only I was singled out,” he said. On being asked why he was not given a visa, Kher said that it could either be because he was a Kashmiri Pandit or because he had spoken about the issue of intolerance, taken a stand and had applauded the PM. Kher, who had visited Pakistan for the Karachi film festival, said he was not able to travel to the neighbouring state for the third time. “I feel when there was an atmosphere of extending friendship from either sides, this is like a big speed-breaker in a smooth operation, which shouldn’t have come.”
Strongly hinting at a boycott of the Pakistan event by other Indian invitees, Kher noted that if he had been one of the Indians who had got a visa while one of his fellow countrymen did not receive it, he would have refused to go. He added there shouldn’t be any restriction on visits by creative personalities.
“I am very sad and disappointed that so many people were given a visa but I was the only one who has been denied it. We welcome their artistes in India. If there are objections to their performance at one place in India they are welcome at other places,” Kher said.
KLF spokesperson Ameena Syed said they had been told by the High Commission to tell Kher to not submit a visa application, as he would not be issued one. Kher’s publisher, Ashok Chopra, has cancelled his trip to Pakistan.