A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson has rejected as "outrageous allegations" comments doing the rounds in the Pakistani press that actor Om Puri, who died recently, was "murdered as part of a political conspiracy".
BJP spokesperson Shaina NC said the Pakistani press needs to exercise restraint. "First, Om Puri was our national treasure. His death is none of their business. Secondly, even if they make it their business they should get their facts right and not make wild outrageous allegations supported by absolutely ridiculous arguments, she said.
The spokesperson further said: "We in India believe in a free and fair press. Not a free-for-all press."
Reports in print and television media in Pakistan claimed that Om Puri was "smothered to death with a pillow." There was some speculation in India at the time of Om Puri's death that he may not have died of a heart attack, as stated. An unverified report said his body had been found naked with an injury mark on the back of his head.
The claim of "murder" by the Pakistani media is based on the assertion that Om Puri was against the Narendra Modi government.
However, this is not true. Om Puri had spoken out against boycotting of Pakistani artistes after the Uri attack in Jammu and Kashmir in September last year and he had once spoken against sacrifices by Indian soldiers. But he later regretted those remarks ("Did we force them to join the army?"). He has not said anything against the Modi government.
He was also subjected to vicious trolling because of the remarks on Indian soldiers.
On a television show when Om Puri was queried about his comments on the soldiers and asked whether he was anti-national, he got very emotional and said he would never participate in a television debate again.
He explained that during another television debate he was asked a question. "I was answering. In the middle of my answer, they asked me about soldiers and in irritation I said what I did. It was wrong. Terribly wrong of me to disrespect our soldiers. I pronounce myself guilty," he said.
He said being sorry was not enough and he was willing to go to jail because of the comment if the government decided to punish him. Later, he visited the families of soldiers killed in the Uri attack and offered help to the children.
About banning Pakistani artistes, he said that "people in our country are angry. Let the Pakistanis stay away for a while. But the Indian government is quiet on the issue. Let the Indian government decide to send back all artists, entrepreneurs and people visiting their relatives from Pakistan.".
He had also recalled his own pleasant visits to Pakistan. "I've been to Pakistan six times. Each visit has been pleasant and rewarding. Everywhere I went, I was accorded great respect and love," he told this correspondent a month ago.
He had also expressed respect for Modi. "We may not agree with some of his policy decisions. But we cannot deny his integrity and honesty of purpose," he had said.