College students in Chennai shouted slogans and displayed protest placards to actor Aamir Khan, urging him to withdraw his endorsement of Coca-Cola.
The students, members of Youth for Social Change, said they were raising this issue with Khan, because he was an actor with a "conscience".
Jennie Dolly Antony and Meghna Sukumar shouted slogans at the Kamarajar Arangam auditorium Saturday night, "Aamir, stop endorsing coke", and "Ganda matlab Coca-Cola". They also held up a placard that read: "Aamir, set an example: Boycott Coke."
Within seconds, the security personnel grabbed the placards and tried to throw the girls out. Other students from Youth for Social Change seated elsewhere in the auditorium then began shouting slogans. They also held up anti-Coke placards, urging the superstar to stop endorsing the cola.
The protest took place at an awards ceremony to commemorate the death anniversary of Gollapudi Srinivas, a director who was tragically killed when he was 26. Khan was the chief guest at the function.
"We do not want to disrupt the awards ceremony. We wish to not just mourn the dead but also fight for the living," a student said.
"Coca-Cola is bad for health. And celebrity endorsers like Aamir Khan and Madhavan are acting irresponsibly by using their larger-than-life screen image to peddle these dangerous drinks to unsuspecting youth who think it is cool to consume junk food," another student added.
The Centre for Science and Environment in a study found that the colas had dangerously high pesticide content, an argument that has been contested by the cola giants who say they meet all industry and health standards.
The students were hopeful that Aamir Khan will withdraw his endorsement. "We are not going after other celebrities. They have never claimed to have a conscience. Aamir has lent his support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan and for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy," a student said.
Not wanting to interrupt the awards ceremony, the students had attempted to seek an appointment with Khan. But their request was turned down.
"Left with no choice we had to raise the issue inside the hall," a student said. The group is now planning a nationwide campaign to pressurise celebrities to stop endorsing Coke, Pepsi and other unhealthy products.