Democracy is under attack across the world, Bollywood star Shabana Azmi tells Sky News | World News

Democracy is under attack across the world and must be “protected under all circumstances”, legendary Bollywood actress Shabana Azmi has told Sky News.

In an interview with Yalda Hakim, she said religion was also used for “political gain” – but how she also remained an “optimist by nature”.

India is currently in the fourth phase of a seven-week long general election which has been dominated by campaign rhetoric over economic disparities and religious divisions.

Azmi said: “The ordinary citizen who feels that ‘I have absolutely no voice’, has a right to express that voice every five years.

“And that has to be protected under all circumstances.

“Democracy has to be preserved because when you attack democratic rights, then you are attacking a citizen’s rights”.

Azmi was asked how the 200 million Muslims felt in India during this time – and if they felt they were under attack.

“Of course, religion is used as an instrument for political gain and especially for electoral gain,” she said.

When asked about her identity and how millions of Muslims have felt in India, she said being Muslim is only one aspect of her identity.

‘I hope there is a degree of sensitivity in you’

She said: “I never thought of myself as a Muslim, because if you ask me who I am – I’m a woman, I’m an Indian, I’m an actor, I’m an activist, I’m a mother, I’m a daughter. I’m all of that – and being Muslim is only one part of my identity.

“But I have always been brought out to speak my mind.

“And so when I’ve come across issues which are provocative, it comes just naturally to me that if I feel really strongly about it, then I’ll get involved with it.

“Why is there injustice? Why is there gender inequality?

“Given that you are an artist – I hope there is a degree of sensitivity in you.

“And that’s how I got involved, both in my work with slum dwellers in Mumbai and then later with women.”

Women stand in a line to cast their votes at a polling station during the fourth phase of India's general election, in Rangareddy district in the southern state of Telangana, India, May 13, 2024. REUTERS/Almaas Masood
Voting is continuing during the general election in India. Pic: Reuters

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She was asked if she was hopeful for India’s future amid the elections in the largest democracy in the world.

Azmi said: “I’m an optimist by nature. I always think of the best to come – and that it will.

“I’m very proud of my country. I love the fact that I am an Indian and I’m very proud of my country.”

However, when discussing her career, she added: “I didn’t have a grand plan that I was going to become an actress“.

Baroness Shaista Gohir, CEO of Muslim Women’s Network UK, hosted the actress at the House Of Lords to celebrate her film career alongside her work championing women’s rights and her London Freedom Of The City award.

Azmi is the only actor to win the national award for best actor five times.

She won it for her first release, Ankur, in 1974.

She then won the award for three consecutive years, from 1983 to 1985, for her notable work in the films Arth, Khandhar, and Paa.

:: You can watch the full interview with Shabana Azmi on Sky News’ The World With Yalda Hakim from 9pm tonight.

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