Union minister Najma Heptulla today dismissed filmmaker Karan Johar's claim that there was intolerance in the country, saying freedom of expression exists but cautioned people to be careful that their comments do not hurt anyone.
"There is a freedom of speech in our country. It is part of the fundamental rights. As long as my speech doesn't hurt anybody, it is fine. But when my speech starts hurting someone, then my freedom stops.
"I should speak, but I should not hurt anybody's sentiments. That one should be careful about," she said.
The Minority Affairs Minister made the suggestion on the sidelines of the two-day New Year get-together she organised for representatives of minority communities at her official residence.
It was attended by Union ministers including Jual Oram, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Harsimrat Kaur, ex-Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, members of National Minority Commission, representatives of Vatican and Sweden embassies, besides representatives of Christian, Sikh and Parsi communities.
Religious leaders from Jain, Muslim and Buddhist communities are expected to attend the get-together tomorrow.
"We have organised the get-together to mark the new year. Our ministry has completed 10 years of its formation, that's another reason," Heptulla said.
Wading into the intolerance debate, Johar today said, "The talk about freedom of expression is the biggest joke I believe in the world. Democracy is the second biggest joke I think."
"I really wonder how are we really democratic? How is there freedom of expression? As a filmmaker, I feel bound at every level be it what I put out on celluloid or what I say in print," he said at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.