Celebs pitch Lakshadweep as must-travel destination, slam Maldivian leaders' remarks against PM Modi

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Mumbai: Many prominent personalities like cine stars Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar on Sunday appealed to people to explore "Indian islands" and coastal destinations, amid a row over disparaging remarks by Maldivian ministers after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lakshadweep.

In social media posts, Kumar, cricketer Hardik Pandya, veteran player Venkatesh Prasad and others also condemned the "hateful" and "racist" comments on X by the three ministers who drew flak both in India and from the Maldives opposition leaders and tourism industry players.

Amid the backlash, the Maldivian government on Sunday distanced itself from "derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals" and reportedly suspended the three deputy ministers for their objectionable social media posts.

While many Indian Internet users were pitting Lakshadweep and Maldives as rival tourist destinations, there were also posts on social media claiming that some were cancelling their scheduled trip to the Maldives.

In an X post, Salman Khan said it was "cool" to see Modi enjoy the clean and stunning beaches of Lakshadweep.

"And the best part is that yeh hamare India mein hain," the "Tiger 3" star wrote.

Tiger Shroff said the Lakshadweep islands had captured his heart.

"The rich culture, tranquil beaches, and the genuine warmth of its people create an enchanting allure. Join me in celebrating the inclusivity and unparalleled beauty of these islands - a treasure trove waiting for us to explore!" he posted.

Actor Shraddha Kapoor and other stars shared posts on X using the hashtags 'Explore Indian Islands' and 'Lakshadweep'.

Akshay Kumar, who rang in the New Year in the Maldives with his family, condemned the remarks by prominent public figures from the Maldives.

"Came across comments from prominent public figures from the Maldives passing hateful and racist comments on Indians. Surprised that they are doing this to a country that sends them the maximum number of tourists... We are good to our neighbours but why should we tolerate such unprovoked hate? "I've visited the Maldives many times and always praised it, but dignity first. Let us decide to #ExploreIndianIslands and support our own tourism," the actor wrote on the microblogging site.

Speaking in the same vein, former cricketer Venkatesh Prasad posted, "A deputy minister using such language for our country. Maldives is a largely poor country largely dependent on upmarket tourism with over 15% tourists from India." "India has very many unexplored beautiful coastal towns, and this is a great opportunity to develop many of them into tourist destinations," he added in his X post.

Tendulkar said he rang in his 50th birthday in Sindhudurg and the coastal town in Maharashtra offered everything "we wanted, and more".

"Gorgeous locations combined with wonderful hospitality left us with a treasure trove of memories. India is blessed with beautiful coastlines and pristine islands. With our 'Atithi Devo Bhava' philosophy, we have so much to explore, so many memories waiting to be created," Tendulkar added.

Pandya said it is "extremely sad" to see what's being said about India.

"With its gorgeous marine life, beautiful beaches, Lakshadweep is the perfect getaway spot and surely a must visit for me for my next holiday," he added in his X post.

Cricketer Suresh Raina also expressed similar views. "I saw remarks from prominent public figures in the Maldives, expressing hateful and racist comments directed towards Indians. It's disheartening to witness such negativity, especially considering that India contributes significantly to their economy, crisis management and so many other aspects.

"Having visited the Maldives multiple times and always expressing admiration for the destination's beauty, I believe it's crucial to prioritize our self-respect. In light of recent events, let's unite and choose to #ExploreIndianIslands, supporting our own vibrant tourism industry. It's time to celebrate and appreciate the rich experiences that our own has to offer," he said.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar and actors John Abraham, Kangana Ranaut, and Randeep Hooda were also among the Indian film personalities who promoted Lakshadweep through social media.

Ranaut called Lakshadweep an "almost untouched, unexplored and unexploited natural island".

Hooda, who shot his upcoming film "Veer Savarkar" in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said he was awed by the pristine beauty and the rich history of the region.

"Incredible India is not just a tag, our beautiful country has some of the most incredible and stunning locales and #Lakshadweep is an example of it- a heaven like place in India itself! Can't wait to explore this beautiful Indian island," Kartik Aaryan wrote on X.

"With the amazing Indian hospitality, the idea of 'Atithi Devo Bhava' and a vast marine life to explore. Lakshadweep is the place to go," said Abraham.

"All these images and memes making me super FOMO now. Lakshadweep has such pristine beaches and coastlines, thriving local culture, I'm on the verge of booking an impulse chhutti. This year, why not #ExploreIndianIslands (sic)" Shraddha Kapoor shared on X.

Prime Minister Modi was in Lakshadweep on January 2 and 3 to inaugurate several projects.

The prime minister, who also went snorkelling to explore undersea life, posted pictures of his undersea exploration on X and early morning walks on the pristine beaches.

"For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list. During my stay, I also tried snorkelling - what an exhilarating experience it was," he wrote.