| Anupam Kher shows a copy of the letter at the news conference in Delhi on Thursday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Oct. 14: Sacked Censor Board chief Anupam Kher has written to Harkishen Singh Surjeet demanding an apology from the CPM leader for calling him an 'RSS man' if he did not want to face a defamation suit.
'My lawyer has sent a letter to the CPM general secretary telling him that he cannot make irresponsible statements without finding out the facts,' the actor, who blamed the Left, particularly Surjeet, for his 'humiliating' exit, told a news conference today.
The letter said Kher would be 'constrained to adopt legal action in the nature of civil suit for damages and criminal prosecution for defamation'. It asked Surjeet to 'satisfactorily substantiate the allegation or publicly deny the same within 48 hours'.
In the latest issue of the CPM mouthpiece Peoples' Democracy, Surjeet urged the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to sack those who continue to head institutions despite being loyal to the RSS.
'Many of the RSS men are still there in various institutions and they are active from behind the screen,' the CPM leader wrote. He then gave a long list of names of institution heads who, he said, needed to be sacked without delay. Kher figures on the list.
CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said his party has not received any letter from Kher but added that it was 'a good thing' if the actor 'feels he has to move a defamation case because he has been called RSS'. Surjeet is away in Canada to mobilise funds for the CPM congress next year.
Kher, who was replaced by actor Sharmila Tagore, said he was 'deeply hurt' by Surjeet's 'irresponsible' allegations, which were meant to 'malign' him, 'question' his motives and 'attribute a certain mindset'. 'I take strong objection to that,' he asserted.
He made it clear he would not go down without a fight. 'Maybe the present government has political compulsions for unseating me. But let me tell them that this will dishearten any firm, honest and straightforward person from accepting such appointments in the future,' Kher said.
Kher said the Congress-led government was 'so dependent on Surjeet that if asked to bend, they crawl'.
The Left's main grievance against Kher is the Censor Board's delay in clearing Final Solution, a film on the Gujarat riots. But the actor said he was 'the only person' who made it possible for the film to be cleared without any cuts. 'The film in some ways is anti-BJP,' he added.
He explained the two-month delay, saying the film got stuck at a particular stage and had to be cleared by two committees ' the examining and revising committees.
The Congress denied that Kher was removed under pressure and said it was just 'an administrative decision'.
'He was removed neither under pressure nor was any politics involved in it,' spokesperson Girija Vyas said.