Assam governor PB Acharya was found entangled on Sunday in the raging intolerance row for allegedly saying “Hindustan is for Hindus” and “Muslims in India are free to go anywhere”, remarks that he said were misinterpreted.
The alleged comments of Acharya, a senior BJP leader before he assumed his gubernatorial role in 2014 after the NDA government came to power, triggered fresh outrage as it came at a time of heightened friction over growing intolerance in the country following the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh in September this year.
“I didn’t mean Hindustan is for Hindus only, persecuted Hindus anywhere have the right to seek shelter here,” he said, clarifying reports about his remarks at a book launch the day before.
He said India is the “most tolerant nation in the world” and Indian-origin people, including Muslims, persecuted in any foreign land were welcome in the country. He cited the asylum to Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen to drive home his point.
“We should keep in mind, only because a person is persecuted because of his religion in any country, if Indian Christian is persecuted in Pakistan, he has to come to India. Where else will he go? Indian Christian, Indian Buddhist, Indian Jain, Indian Hindu. If a European Hindu is persecuted in Belgium, he cannot come to India,” he said.
But his clarification was viewed as clumsy when he went on to press his case: “Indian Muslims are free to go anywhere. They can stay here if they want to stay here, many have gone to Pakistan. If they want to go to Pakistan, Bangladesh, they are free to … but Hindus have no other place.”
His comments offered fresh fodder to the long-drawn anti-Bangladeshi campaign in Assam where people were looking at the RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, as well as the NDA government with growing suspicion over its alleged plan to rehabilitate Hindus from the neighbouring country in the state.
The Congress termed the comments unfortunate and shocking. “It is clearly indicative of the way RSS and BJP functionaries think and continue to think even when they are in a constitutional post. Bondage or umbilical cords with parent remote organisations, be it RSS and BJP should be severed when you assume a constitutional post,” party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
(with agency inputs)