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Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare, who was seen in a video clip trying to put food into the mouth of a Maharashtra Sadan staffer observing Ramadan fast, Wednesday defended his action, saying he had no idea about the man's religion.
He also said he was protesting the bad quality of food served at the state guest house in the national capital.
"I respect all religions. The staffer was wearing a civil dress and had no badge that could identify him. I had no idea that he was Muslim," said Vichare, a first-time Lok Sabha member from Thane. He was also mayor of Thane city.
Read: Govt plays it safe as Shiv Sena denies MP forced fasting Muslim man to eat chapati
The video clip, shown in all major television channels, created a storm with opposition MPs disrupting parliament over the issue.
"We were protesting the bad quality food we were getting at the Sadan. We should get good quality food. But it is not so... we were given half cooked vegetables and chapatis that were difficult to even break into two pieces. We did not do anything on purpose," Vichare told media persons outside Maharashtra Sadan.
Vichare and some Shiv Sena MPs are residing at the New Maharashtra Sadan in central Delhi during their stay in the national capital to attend parliament's busget session.
Read: Maharashtra Sadan incident an attempt to silence Shiv Sena's voice: Uddhav
Meanwhile, incensed over reports that Shiv Sena MPs allegedly forced a fasting Muslim worker to eat in the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, several opposition parties on Wednesday wrote to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan demanding an inquiry into the incident.
"We would request you to uphold the dignity of the House by ordering an inquiry and also direct the government for an immediate inquiry and appropriate action so that such wanton behaviour is no longer repeated," they said in a letter to the speaker.
When asked, Congress chief whip KC Venugopal said the letter has been sent to the speaker.
Sources said besides the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, NCP leader Tariq Anwar, Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav (RJD), P Karunakaran (CPI-M), NK Premachandran (RSP), ET Muhammad Basheer (IUML) and Jose K Mani (Kerala Congress-M) are signatories to the letter.
In their letter, the MPs said "the incident turns much controversial and inhuman as the victim of this barbaric act is a Muslim who is fasting during Ramzan".
Read: I'm sorry if religious sentiments are hurt: Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare
The opposition MPs said they attempted to raise the issue in the House as "it brings indignity" to the position of parliamentarians and the House itself".
"The government was sadly defending the act by being silent and ignoring our requests for discussing this issue. We are of the opinion that the reply given by the Speaker is insufficient considering the severity of the issue and sentiments of the minority community being already hurt across the nation," the letter said.
Earlier in the day, the government dismissed the allegations as "unsubstantiated" and said they need to be verified first lest they raise communal passions.
The issue was raised in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by opposition members who demanded action against the Shiv Sena MPs who vociferously denied the reports.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani disapproved of the alleged action of Shiv Sena MPs.
"This is wrong," he told reporters when asked to comment on the incident which allegedly took place last week.
Read: Shiv Sena MPs ‘force’ fasting Muslim staffer to eat chapati at Maharashtra Sadan: report
(with PTI inputs)