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No freedom of expression?

Anupam Kher's speech on the plight of Kashmiri pundits strangely went missing from the TV telecast of a charity event

Several Bollywood actors had recently participated in a special show organised to raise funds for Kashmir flood victims. However, when the concert, Ummeed-e-Kashmir, was telecast on Sunday night on television, Anupam Kher was in for an unpleasant surprise. While performances of all actors and their appeals for funds were aired, Kher’s speech was edited out of the show that was held in New Delhi.

Anupam Kher
Anupam Kher

The actor, who is of Kashmiri origin, says, “I have not been given a proper, official reason for my speech being deleted from the show. I had spoken about Kashmiri pundits and their sufferings when they were thrown out of the state in the 90s — something that I have personally experienced. Since there was no social media at that time, the truth never came out. So, on the show, I had said that apart from financial support, they (Kashmiri pundits) need emotional support and love, too.”

Reportedly, organisers of the charity event told Kher that his speech was too long and had to be deleted. While every celeb was apparently allotted three minutes, the veteran actor had spoken for nearly seven minutes. “The show was edited much in advance. If my speech was not fitting into their time limit, they could have edited the poem that I recited instead of deleting my whole speech. I read out some parts of Rahul Pandita’s book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots, as well because he is the only author who has spoken about Kashmiri pundits and how their daughters and wives were raped and forced to leave the state. If they wanted to delete some portions, they could have informed me. Moreover, they could have also edited one of the performances,” he rued.

Pradeep Hejmadi, business head of the television channel concerned, said, “Hum Hain Umeed-e-Kashmir is a platform aimed at uniting people across India to raise funds for rebuilding homes and infrastructure in Kashmir and Assam, which were ravaged by floods. All comments by celebrities, who were associated with the cause, was edited to last a maximum of three minutes. Portions that were relevant to the initiative were retained for the four-hour telecast across our 35 channels.”

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