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Debate on free speech heats up; Anupam Kher booed

Actor Anupam Kher was booed by the audience as a debate at a literary festival in Mumbai on freedom of speech heated up, with the actor wondering aloud if it was a paid audience.

Kher was among the panel of speakers at the debate on ‘Freedom of expression is in imminent danger’ organised as part of the Tata Literature Live Festival on Thursday, October 29, night.

Kher, along with Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nalin Kohli, spoke for the motion whereas former BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni and writer Shobhaa De spoke against the motion.

Soon after Kher rose to speak, he was booed after he recalled De’s past as an editor of a film magazine “which printed gossip about which film star slept with whom.”

Undeterred, Kher went on saying “people have an agenda and cannot handle a chaiwalabecoming a PM.”

As the booing continued, Kher said he had spoken to festival organiser Anil Dharker in the morning and expressed his apprehensions of a paid audience at the debate.

This infuriated several members of the audience who kept booing the actor.

His wife Kirron Kher, a BJP member of Parliament who was in the audience, rose to his defence, but the audience did not stop booing Kher who said being a theatre artist he was used to such booing.

Dharker said it was ridiculous to suggest that the audience at the debate, which ended at around 10 pm, was paid. Moderator Nik Gowing, a former BBC anchor, declared the motion carried after a show of ‘ballot pamphlets’ by the audience.

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