Bollywood top hats and the Chief Minister of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have come under fire for a carnival at Saifai even as thousands of riot victims rendered homeless brave bitter cold in Muzzaffarnagar.
The Saifai Mahotsav held in the ruling Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ancestral village is a 14-day annual cultural carnival whose grand finale was a Bollywood dance extravaganza.
The gala venue is about 300km from Muzzaffarnagar, the area where riots took place leaving more than 60 dead and thousands homeless last September.
A beaming Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was seen in the front row enjoying while Bollywood starlets flirted and joked with him from stage.
Madhuri Dixit, Deepika Padukone, Mallika Sherawat, Alia Bhatt, Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh were among others who danced and performed at the glittering show.
Social media and TV channels erupted with outrage and criticism over the callous manner in which the state government spent lavishly on its stars while many in the state are suffering from hunger and children have died in the riot camps from where families were removed forcibly in the first week of January.
"Did Mulayam want to drown the screams of women being raped, the moans of dying children in bawdy Bollywood music and dance?" tweeted Atiya Zaidi.
The chief minister had offered a reward of Rs one crore ( $16,13,423) to the filmmakers of Bullett Raja (The king of bullets) and Dedh Ishqiya (One and half love). The two films are set in Uttar Pradesh and deal with crooks and murderers from this region.
Following criticism, the chief minister’s office in a statement said that Akhilesh Yadav would not be attending the grand premier of the film Dedh Ishqiya which has a Friday release.
Season of grief
Even as women suffered rape and children died of hunger in the camps of Uttar Pradesh, the state government has loosened its purse strings over this carnival.
Seven chartered flights flew over two dozen Bollywood stars to UP; swank BMWs plied the stars to the venue and more than 1,000 were deployed in offering security to the stars and the venues.
Actor Salman Khan who runs a foundation Being Human was asked about his “inhuman” act of dancing while the poor suffered in the same state.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt told NDTV that he has "failed as a father" for not stopping his daughter from dancing at the show.
Bollywood’s top star Shah Rukh Khan however defended the stars saying that the public "should not pick on us" as "we are performers".
Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit used social media to clarify that they see opportunities for charity and to help "locals in healthcare and education".
Khan said he was funding paediatric medical help for children in Uttar Pradesh.
Source: Al Jazeera