Addressing a Twitter town hall organised by a media house on his 50th birthday, Shah Rukh Khan said there is 'extreme intolerance' in the country and the worst mistake a patriot can do at this time is go against secularism.

"People put words in the air even before thinking... Intolerance religiously...not being secular in this country is the worst crime you can do as a patriot," Khan said on Monday, reports the Hindustan Times.

The Bollywood superstar comment comes at a a time when the debate between the NDA government and several writers and intellectuals over "rising intolerance" in India is apparently at its peak.

Several writers have returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards, many filmmakers returned their national awards and an eminent scientist PM Bhargava has decided to return his Padma Bhushan. Ironically, these acts have been dubbed as "manufactured rebellion" by the BJP ministers.

Khan appreciated their (writers, artists and scientists) decision to return their awards to highlight the growing intolerance in the country. Many writers have been protesting against the murder of rationalist Kannada writer MM Kalburgi and lynching of a Muslim man over rumours that he ate beef.

"I have not been in a situation like that. But I respect the people. If they think this gesture is going to turn things around, it is very brave, very honest... As far as I am concerned, I have not participated in something as meaningful as they have," the HT quoted Shah Rukh Khan as saying.

On being asked whether he would follow suit and return any of the awards he has won, he said he will if asked to.

"Yes, as a symbolic gesture I would give it up... I do think there is intolerance. There is extreme intolerance," The Indian Express quoted Khan as saying.

Speaking further at the town hall event organised by India Today television channel, Khan also said, "If I do take a stand, I'll stand by it".