Venkaiah Naidu hits back at US envoy: Will they allow Osama anniversary on campus?

Earlier this week, at two meetings in New Delhi and Patna, Verma said free speech was a “central tenet” of what India and the US “hold dear”.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: February 26, 2016 10:56 am
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo / TV GRAB Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo / TV GRAB

Alluding to US Ambassador Richard Verma’s remark on “free speech” being “the hallmark of democracy both in India and the US”, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, without taking names, hit back Thursday when he asked Lok Sabha if the US would “tolerate” any campus meeting on its soil to mark the “Osama bin Laden martyrdom anniversary”.

Earlier this week, at two meetings in New Delhi and Patna, Verma said free speech was a “central tenet” of what India and the US “hold dear”. Referring to alleged anti-national slogans raised at a JNU campus meeting on February 9, the day Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged three years ago, Naidu said India “cannot tolerate such activities in our universities” and “cannot allow our boys to be misled by such fringe elements who are inspired by foreign ideologies, who are inspired by foreign forces”.

READ: US envoy Richard Verma repeats: Free speech a key tenet

As the government came under attack over its alleged attempts to muzzle free speech in campuses, Naidu, intervening in the House debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, said: “Can they hold Osama bin Laden martyrdom anniversary in any university in America?… Let America say, ‘Osama, we are ashamed your killers roam free; USA shall be divided into pieces’, Allah willing, Insha Allah. If somebody says like that, is America going to tolerate this?’.”

“They may be a great nation with all the resources at their command. But at the same time, we Indians also have our self-pride. We are also concerned about the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of our country,” he said.

“I would like to tell some of the countries who are giving us lessons, also saying that in India dissent is not allowed and all that. I would like to ask them one thing. Madam, I once went to the United States of America along with my OSD. My OSD was taken away and kept in quarantine for an hour. Then an inquiry was held for an hour. I could not do anything because we were outside the country. At the end of it, what came out was very simple. That boy had a beard, and that was the suspicion,” he said.

Naidu said if the US could take great precautions for its security, why could India not take action against those who raised slogans in favour of Pakistan and separatism.

“As a minister, I want to send this message that we cannot tolerate such activities in our universities. We cannot allow our boys to be misled by such fringe elements who are inspired by foreign ideologies, who are inspired by foreign forces,” he said.

He also said a Pakistani court had handed 10 years in jail to its citizen Umar Draz for praising Virat Kohli for his good cricket performance.

“The Pakistani court gave this punishment within 24 hours. When he sought bail on February 19, it was summarily dismissed. This is just for cricket, and not for any anti-Pakistan activity. Imagine what would have happened if a Pakistani had supported or praised an Indian martyr or soldier,” Naidu said.

Maintaining that freedom of expression should have a Lakshman Rekha, he said nobody has a right to express an opinion on an issue after the highest court of the land has given its verdict.

He took exception to former Home Minister P Chidambaram’s remarks on the Afzal Guru case. In an interview to The Economic Times published Thursday, Chidambaram was quoted as having said: “I think it is possible to hold an honest opinion that the Afzal Guru case was perhaps not correctly decided. But being in government you cannot say the court has decided the case wrongly because it was the government that prosecuted him. But an independent person can hold an opinion that the case was not decided correctly.”

Naidu said: “Nobody, after the highest court of the land has given its verdict, after an exhaustive procedure of giving reasonable time, opportunity and after the highest authority, the President of India, has given the final approval, has got the right to express such an opinion to create disaffection in society. You may think that there is nothing wrong. But I think it is totally wrong.”

He said the government allows freedom of speech. “Recently, one intellectual, in his column, predicted the death of Prime Minister Modi and even speculated who would become the next Prime Minister. This is the degree of freedom of speech existing in the country. We have not done anything and we will not do anything. We will leave it to his wisdom. Our Prime Minister is hale and healthy. He has no illness and he does not have to go for treatment inside or outside India,” he said.

Naidu also referred to an article written by sociologist Ashis Nandy after the 2007 Gujarat assembly elections. “This shows the degree of freedom of speech in this country. The same Ashis Nandy told the Supreme Court that he was ready to apologise unconditionally for an article he wrote in 2008,” he said.

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First Published on: February 26, 2016 5:04 am
  1. A
    Abhinav Gour
    Feb 26, 2016 at 1:42 am
    Well said Mr. Naidu. A big salute to from Indian living in USA.
    Reply
    1. A
      annoyed
      Feb 26, 2016 at 12:26 pm
      JNU EFFECT - As a mark of 'Freedom of Speech', White House has decided to honour Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussain, as a mark of respect - Newyork Times Report
      Reply
      1. G
        GandhiSpeaks
        Feb 26, 2016 at 7:12 am
        Well said Mr. Naidu
        Reply
        1. B
          bonku
          Feb 26, 2016 at 3:34 am
          Naidu or any rich BJP corporate patron (like Ambani, Adani) can try and, I am sure, they will get that permission. These guys do not know much about USA but make irrelevant comment.
          Reply
          1. G
            George Cruz
            Feb 26, 2016 at 2:01 am
            Modi and all BJP buggers should be banned from entering USA.
            Reply
            1. A
              Akshay
              Feb 26, 2016 at 4:07 am
              We have finally reached a stage where we look up to events in stan to justify our actions. Nothing could be more sad. We always took pride in being different.
              Reply
              1. A
                Ajitdada
                Feb 26, 2016 at 4:56 am
                No womder your readership is leftist and naxals.
                Reply
                1. P
                  pk
                  Feb 26, 2016 at 6:23 am
                  How does ones relatives settlement in US make him unpatriotic, this is bizarre.
                  Reply
                  1. P
                    pk
                    Feb 26, 2016 at 6:25 am
                    If Congress and Left MPs had content and integrity they should not have fled away from parliament
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Rahul
                      Feb 26, 2016 at 7:38 pm
                      Well said, Venkiah Naidu.
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        Saurabh
                        Feb 26, 2016 at 5:17 am
                        This government is shamelessly opposing anyone who don't agree with their views.
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          S Iyer
                          Feb 26, 2016 at 7:39 am
                          Well said Mr Naidu. Also would like to point out that Edward Snowden and Jullian ange the champions of free speech and transparency are wanted men in the USA.
                          Reply
                          1. P
                            Praful Vora
                            Feb 26, 2016 at 3:09 am
                            Good response well done naidu
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              AVINASH M
                              Feb 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm
                              The persons who have raised anti national slogans cannot be pardoned and should face the law of the land. They are no kindergarten kids to let them go. By the way of the thinking of these elements they can never be good citizen of India and will always be trouble makers. These people are best suited behind bars.
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                alok
                                Feb 26, 2016 at 5:30 am
                                Shamelessly or not can be decided but right now opposition doesn't have much to justify their stand and to counter the gov seems a distant dream.
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  amakant
                                  Feb 26, 2016 at 9:21 pm
                                  Thats why even if persons of Indian heritage hold responsible office the US still cannot be trusted. India must follow its destiny and continue its support of China.
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    Archpagan
                                    Feb 26, 2016 at 3:50 pm
                                    We would like to kick them instead.
                                    Reply
                                    1. A
                                      Archpagan
                                      Feb 26, 2016 at 3:51 pm
                                      But we do not worship a rapist- m murderer- bandit- pedophile.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        arun
                                        Feb 26, 2016 at 6:45 am
                                        Naidu is right. US should not try to preach anything to anybody. The fools or oversmarts, who supports Khalid and Co., should be sent to a border post to spend three days and nights.
                                        Reply
                                        1. A
                                          Arvind
                                          Feb 26, 2016 at 8:47 am
                                          If USA authorities came that any person reads literature on Osama Bin Laden then that person will never allowed to enter USAdian Democracy is far far better than USA in terms of freedom of speech, religion and expression which are freely used by anybody without fear of Govt in power.
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            Arvind
                                            Feb 26, 2016 at 8:51 am
                                            If USA authorities came to know that any person reads literature on Osama Bin Laden then that person will never allowed to enter USAdian Democracy is far far better than USA in terms of freedom of speech, religion and expression which are freely used by anybody without fear of Govt in power.USA can advise others but does know how to implement in its own country. Therefore Venkaiah Naidu rightly asked US envoy: whether they allow Osama anniversary on campus? Can US Ambador Richard Verma answer it?.
                                            Reply
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