India: Bollywood 'secular vote' letter stirs debate

Nandita Das and her husband Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nandita Das says the letter speaks out against parties that have divided people along "communal lines"

An open letter from Bollywood film personalities urging people to support secular parties in India's general election has caused a stir, it appears.

The hashtag #BollywoodSplit became the top trend in India on Thursday as people debated whether popular actors and directors should be weighing in on politics. The letter, signed by 60 prominent people, says: "India's secular character is not negotiable!" according to NDTV. "Vote for the secular party which is most likely to win in your constituency."

The letter doesn't name parties, but seems to target the BJP - India's main opposition party - and its allies, says screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, who is spearheading the initiative. Directors such as Imtiaz Ali and Kabir Khan, and actresses Nandita Das and Aditi Rao Hydari are among those who signed the letter.

But the message has proved divisive. Film director Madhur Bhandarkar says in a tweet that the letter is "shocking". Another actor, Tusshar Kapoor, warns "the 'secular' card is being stretched a bit too far".

The letter appeared on the eve of India's biggest polling day, in which nearly 200 million people are eligible to vote. Mumbai, where the Hindi film industry is based, goes the polls on 24 April.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Imtiaz Ali also signed the open letter

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