Intolerance debate: Rajnath draws the party line – and steps across it as well

Singh wrapped up a two-day discussion in the House on intolerance by extending an olive branch to writers, artists and scientists who have returned their awards in protest over what they called growing acts of intolerance.

Written by Raghvendra Rao , Sheela Bhatt | New Delhi | Updated: December 2, 2015 12:13:28 pm
Rajnath singh, intolerance debate, social harmony, religious harmony, lok sabha, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, BJP, congress, sahitya akademi awards, Mohammad Salim, CPM, india news Rajnath Singh, CPM’s Mohammad Salim at Parliament House Tuesday. Renuka Puri

Rejecting the charge that intolerance has been on the rise since the NDA came to power at the Centre, Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured Lok Sabha Tuesday that the government will not spare anyone trying to disrupt social and religious harmony in the country.

Describing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “victim of maximum intolerance”, Singh wrapped up a two-day discussion in the House on intolerance by extending an olive branch to writers, artists and scientists who have returned their awards in protest over what they called growing acts of intolerance.

He urged them to take back their awards: “Whenever the country has been in trouble, whenever adverse circumstances have emerged… it is the artists, teachers and scientists who have guided the country. If they think that circumstances like these are getting created… if you feel intolerance is increasing… please come, let us sit and talk. Please come, guide us.”
Watch Video: Parliament Debate On Intolerance(app users click here)

“If we are making a mistake somewhere, we are ready to correct it… expression is a big honour… You invite me, I am ready to sit with you and our government is ready to do whatever is necessary to bring in an atmosphere of tolerance,” he said.

The government stand and the lowering of rhetoric comes days after the NDA was trounced in the Bihar assembly elections which many of the BJP’s own said was partly because of the “language of divisive politics” in a high-decibel campaign spearheaded by Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.

Pointing to the way Rajnath Singh challenged CPM’s Mohammad Salim in Lok Sabha Monday after the latter referred to a ‘Hindu leader’ remark by VHP leader Ashok Singhal and attributed it to the Home Minister — Singh told the House he would never make such a remark and would resign if this was proved — BJP sources said “the extreme position on caste and communal issues during the Bihar campaign has given space to Rajnath which was not available to him earlier”.

And in the House Tuesday, Singh underlined: “We were, are and will be tolerant. Tolerance is in our veins… it’s in our tradition, our culture… we are not tolerant under somebody’s pressure… Mutthi bhar logon ke banaavati prachar se hamari chhavi par kalit nahin putegi (an artificial campaign by a handful cannot tarnish our image).”

He said the allegation of intolerance was not just on his party or the government but on the Indian society and nation. “If there is one political party which has suffered the maximum untouchability and intolerance in Indian politics, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party. If somebody has been the victim of maximum intolerance in India’s politics, it is our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.”

Singh said those who criticised Modi before the elections for political reasons should respect the “massive mandate” he got. “Only then will people say that you are tolerant… otherwise they will call you intolerant,” he said.

To queries from the Opposition on why Modi had not spoken on incidents of intolerance, Singh countered by asking whether previous prime ministers had ever commented on such incidents. He said internal security was his responsibility and he had always spoken on such incidents.

Taking on the Congress, he referred to three major events related to intolerance — Partition, Emergency and the 1984 riots. “And you know whose government was in place during these times… who were the people responsible for these,” he said, leading to loud protests from Congress benches.

“Vichardhara se maat khane wali yeh jamaat asahishnuta ka banaavati mahaul banakar sarkar ko badnam kar rahi hai (those who have been defeated ideologically have created an artificial atmosphere of intolerance to defame the government)… Where were these people when the immortal literature of Kashmir was being burnt… libraries were being consigned to flames….where where they then? Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits were made to flee from their birthplace… where were they then? In 1984, thousands of Sikhs were burnt on the roads… where were they then?”

Amid a walkout by the Congress, Singh spoke on the Dadri incident where a Muslim man was lynched. He said the report sent by the Uttar Pradesh government had “no mention of communalism or beef” or it being a “planned murder”.

“I can only state the fact made available to the Central government,” he said, adding that he was ready to order a CBI probe if the state government thought fit.

On inflammatory statements made by BJP leaders, the Home Minister said he had made it known that “we should be careful in giving statements” and “we should speak after thinking”. He defended Minister of State V K Singh — attacked by Rahul Gandhi earlier for his ‘dog remark’ over the death of two Dalit children in Haryana — saying that the minister had clarified that his statement had been twisted out of context.

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