Minority affairs minister Najma Heptullah's remark that all Indians could be called Hindus came in for severe flak from the Congress and other opposition parties on Thursday.
"Article 1 of the Indian constitution talks of India as Bharat, therefore all Indians are Bharatiyas not Hindus," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Another Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza accused the Narendra Modi government of pursuing a hidden agenda of declaring India a Hindu nation.
Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP) leader Tariq Anwar said, "If Najma Heptulla has said something like this, it is unfortunate. Just to be in power she is giving such statements."
Najma, the only Muslim minister in Team Modi said in an exlusive interview to Hindustan Times that there is nothing wrong with the term Hindu being applied equally to all citizens as a label of “national identity”.
Asked in the interview if it was right to call India’s minorities “Hindu-Muslims” and “Hindu-Christians”, the minister said, “It is not about right or wrong. It is about history.” If some people called Muslims Hindi or Hindu they should not be “so sensitive” because it didn’t affect their “faith”, said Heptullah.
Listen: Hindustan Times has an audio recording of the interview which corroborates the report published in the newspaper
Was misquoted, claims Najma
Najma's comments were a virtual endorsement of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagawat's stand that India is a Hindu nation.
Watch: I used the word 'Hindi' for all Indians not 'Hindu', says Najma Heptullah
Meanwhile following the controversy over her remarks, the minority affairs minister backtracked claiming she was misquoted and that she had used the word Hindi and not Hindu
She also said said she was referring to the fact that Arabs that referred to all Indians as Hindi. Read: Najma's interview to Hindustan Times