In the eye of a raging political storm in Parliament over his allegedly inflammatory speech, junior HRD minister Ram Shankar Katheria said on Tuesday he did not name any community. But another BJP MP Babu Lal, faced with similar charges, remained unapologetic and said Hindus could not watch silently when they were being targeted.
“What has been published in one of the newspapers is false. I had not taken the name of any community. I had said that the culprits, who had murdered the VHP leader, should be given death sentence. I had also said that the Hindu community should unite for their safety. I will send a notice to the newspaper,” Katheria, minister of state for human resource development, said.
Katheria, along with BJP MP from Fatehpur Sikri Babu Lal, had on Sunday attended a condolence meeting held for VHP leader Arun Mahaur, who was allegedly killed by some youths from another community in Agra on Thursday.
At the meeting, Katheria reportedly said, “This conspiracy that is being hatched against the Hindu community, we have to be alert to recognise it and strengthen ourselves. We will have to fight it because if we do not do it now, today we have lost one Arun, tomorrow it could be another Arun... the killers should also go, we have to set such an example.”
Addressing the same gathering, Babu Lal said, “If the Muslims have something in their mind, then draw a line and you will see the strength of the Hindu community.”
“Tell me if we don’t take revenge, should we worship them instead? Is the community only meant to worship others while the other communities come and shoot us down,” was the MP’s defence on Tuesday.
Opposition parties reacted sharply to the remarks by BJP leaders with leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge alleging the BJP and the RSS had plans to divide the country. In the Rajya Sabha, deputy leader of the Congress Anand Sharma had given an adjournment motion even as Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav urged the PM to sack the minister.
“They speak whenever elections are nearing polls. They talk about dividing the country and not uniting. If they continue to speak like this, there will be repercussions across the country. Today we are raising this issue because Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh are silent on this issue,” Kharge said.
Asaduddin Owaisi, leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said he was not surprised by the minister’s remarks. But the BJP said the matter should end following the clarification by the minister.
“Katheria has made it clear in his statement that he has said nothing wrong. And after this clarification, there is nothing to comment on,” BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said.