Senior BJP leader and MP Balbir Punj said in New Delhi on Thursday that by making an irresponsible statement on terrorism, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has given Pakistan a weapon to attack India.
"There is no doubt that Shinde is batting for Pakistan, going by his irresponsible statement at the Congress conclave at Jaipur about the RSS and BJP running so called terrorist training camps," he told reporters, after staging a protest on the issue.
Demanding Shinde's removal, Punj said that the above statement was made in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the party vice president Rahul Gandhi, but their continued silence on the issue smacks of their approval to such an irresponsible statement from none other than the country's home minister.
He also demanded that the government must try Shinde for treason under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
"By making such an irresponsible statement, Shinde has given a perfect handle to roil this country with a charge of officially sponsoring and promoting terror," Punj said.
Asked about the National Investigative Agency (NIA) action against those involved in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express train blasts, he said, "It was politically motivated.
When a person like Shinde is heading the NIA as home minister, you cannot expect any efficient probe from it".
He also questioned Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh's role in such a matter and alleged that while he has the time to sympathise with people in Azamgarh, he has no time to visit Dadhiya village in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh to share the grief of the family members of martyred soldier Sudhakar Singh, who was brutally killed on the LoC.
On the occasion, Punj also distributed photocopies of a story in 'Outlook' magazine on the issue of Karachi-based Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorist Arif Qasmani and wanted to know from the Centre whether it knew about him.
Punj also asked whether it was true that Qasmani was indicted by the US Department of Treasury for being connected to the Samjhauta Express blast.
He wanted to know what steps the government has taken so far to bring him to India and if is there any pressure on Shinde to frame alleged Hindu terrorists to protect Qasmani.
Upping the ante, BJP on Thursday held protests in different parts of the country demanding the sacking of Shinde for his Hindu terror remarks and declared it would raise the issue vociferously in Parliament as well.
BJP held protests in various parts of the country, including Delhi, Kolkata, Jammu, Bhopal and Mumbai.
Addressing a rally in New Delhi at Jantar Mantar, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said, "Saffron and terror are antonyms. The home minister should take back his words and apologise... Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should apologise and the PM should sack Shinde."
Swaraj said that instead of attacking Pakistan for running terror camps against India, the home minister has targeted BJP and alleged it is training terrorists.
New BJP President Rajnath Singh, who also addressed the rally, declared that if Shinde is not removed, his party will continue to press for its demand in both Houses of Parliament in the forthcoming session.
The party also noted that government had given visa to Pakistan's women's cricket team at this juncture.
Swaraj said Shinde has alleged that RSS and BJP are involved in terror activities but when Congress leaders Mahipal Maderna, Gopal Kanda and Suresh Kalmadi were sent to jail, BJP never called Congress a "criminal organisation".
An unfazed Congress and government dismissed the BJP agitation as a "diversionary tactic".
"BJP's agitation is unwarranted, unnecessary. BJP does not have any issues against our government. That is why they are making this non-issue an issue," Union minister V Narayanasamy said.
Meanwhile, BSP supremo Mayawati called a press conference to condemn Shinde's statement and said it has angered Hindus.
"Shinde holds an important position in the government and the issue relates to his department. He should have made the statement based on the facts available to him, which he did not. He acted in haste which is not correct," she said.
On the other hand, Congress and the government on Thursday day slammed BJP for its "unnecessary and unwarranted" agitation over Shinde's remarks on Hindu terror, saying it was a "diversionary tactics" to keep away media attention from its internal affairs.
Rejecting BJP chief Rajnath Singh's demand for an apology by Shinde on the issue, AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh asked the BJP President, its senior leader Lal Krishna Advani and Uma Bharti to apologise for speaking in favour Pragya Thakur, the alleged mastermind in Malegaon and Modasa blast cases.
"BJP's agitation is unwarranted, unnecessary. BJP does not have any issues against our government. That is why they are making this non-issue an issue," Union minister V Narayanasamy said reacting to BJP's tirade against Shinde.
He said that what the mome minister meant was that "we should not allow terrorism by any religious group or in any part of the country".
Party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said it was a "diversionary tactics" by BJP to shift attention from the circumstances in which they had to change their BJP President at the last moment.
"What wrong has Shinde said? He is the home minister. He must be having some facts. The party has already made it clear that Congress believes that terror has no religion or colour. Then what is this fuss all about. They are just trying to divert attention," Chowdhary said.
Singh also played the Dalit card in defence of Shinde asking whether BJP was trying to build this atmospohere "because they are not liking a Dalit home minister".
"The home minister, himself, has taken back his words on Hindu terror. Congress has also made it clear that terror has no religion or colour.
"If BJP asks Shinde to apologise, we ask LK Advani, Rajnath Singh and Uma Bharti to apologise," he said, asking why Advani went and Sushma Swaraj had met the Prime Minister over Pragya Thakur's arrest," the AICC leader said.