Despite being booked for hate speech over his alleged derogatory remarks against Islam, BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde stood his ground and reiterated that it was his “honest” opinion that terror will only end if one particular religious ideology was eradicated.
“Across the globe, terrorism is taking place in the name of Islam. US President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have also said it. Islam as an ideology should be eradicated. It’s not a geo-political war nor a battle against unemployment or poverty. It’s an ideological war,” Hegde told The Indian Express. Claiming that “peace” and “Islam” were opposites, he added, “They are just opposite words, practically, even if it is said that Islam stands for peace.” On Sunday, during a press meet at Sirsi, Hegde was allegedly quoted to have said “as long as there is Islam in this world, there will be terrorism”.
But the Uttara Kannada MP now claims his remarks were not a threat to the Muslim community. Pointing out that every religion had changed its “constitution” and “rule books” to adapt to the times, he added: “Christians used to rely on Old Testament which had stringent rules, but they came up with New Testament. Even Hindus used to follow Vedas and Manu Smriti, but what we follow now is Ambedkar Smriti.”
Hegde said Muslims should find a way to get rid of the ideology. “Broad-minded Muslims should amend their rules. They will have to remove radical types. They will have to come up with the new constitution. Muslims, wherever they are, should follow the laws of the land,” he said.
Hegde’s Sunday diatribe, meanwhile, had shocked even those familiar with his polarising politics. The remarks had come in response to a question on youths from Bhatkal in his constituency being linked to terror, and they soon resulted in an uproar – first in the coastal Karnataka region and then all around. Several Muslim organisations around the region approached the police for Hegde’s arrest.
“We don’t expect anything better from him because he always speaks like this. But this has angered us. The police have registered a case and the law will take its course now,’’ said the Bhatkal Tanzeem spokesperson, Dr Haneef Shabab.
An RSS member in his early days and later an ABVP activist, Hegde rose in ranks in the communally charged atmosphere in the country in the aftermath of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. The first cases of rioting, unlawful assembly and promoting enmity among groups were lodged against him in 1993, when he was alleged to be part of the mob during riots in Bhatkal.
In 1994, he caught the attention of RSS when he dodged prohibitory orders in Hubli and reached the disputed Idgah Maidan with two others to the raise the national flag at the prayer ground on August 15. The ensuing violence and police firing claimed eight lives.
He was given a ticket to contest parliamentary polls in 1996 from Uttara Kannada. The 27-year-old emerged a giant-killer by defeating sitting Congress MP Margaret Alva. The five-time MP has won the seat ever since. The constituency has 14 lakh voters, with Muslims making up a mere 1.70 lakh.
What Hedge had said
Q: Bhatkal, part of your constituency, is being called a centre of terrorism for the country. There should be a reaction from you…
A: Virupaksha has asked a very good question. You must telecast what I say verbatim. I will give a reply if you are willing to do it. In that case I will give a reply. I will not retract one word of what I say now. That is my guarantee. As long as there is Islam in this world there will be terrorism. Until we eradicate Islam from the world we will not be able to eliminate terrorism from the world. If you can do it publish/telecast my words as I have stated it. Islam is a bomb placed to disrupt world peace. As long as there is Islam there will be no peace in the world. Have you switched off your microphones? (laughs)
(At a press meet in Sirsi)