Days after he promised to purge Indian culture of “polluting” and “western” influences, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has described former President A P J Abdul Kalam as a “great man” who was a “nationalist” and a “humanist” “despite being a Muslim”.
In an interview to India Today TV, Sharma, while justifying the decision to change the name of Aurangzeb Road to A P J Abdul Kalam Road, said: “Mein samajhta hoon ki Aurangzeb koi adarsh nahin the. Prernasrot hi prerak ho sakta hai. Aurangzeb Road ka bhi naam badal kar ek aise mahapurush ke naam par kiya hai jo Musalmaan hote hue bhi itna bada rashtravadi aur manavtavadi insaan tha, APJ Abdul Kalam, unke naam par kiya gaya hai (I don’t think Aurangzeb was an ideal person. Only a source of inspiration can be inspirational. Aurangzeb Road has been named after such a great man who, despite being a Muslim, was a nationalist and a humanist, A P J Abdul Kalam. The road has been named after him).”
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On Thursday, when The Indian Express asked him about his remark, he said: “I only said Kalam was a rashtravadi Muslim.”
Earlier, Sharma told a meeting of culture ministers of BJP-ruled states: “We will cleanse every area of public discourse that has been westernised and where Indian culture and civilisation needs to be restored, be it history we read, our cultural heritage or our institutions that have been polluted over years.”
He has also spoken on introducing tales from Gita, Ramayana and Mahabharat in school curriculum, and about western “encroachment” on Indian culture.
“India has witnessed western encroachment of our culture to the extent that if we talk about our culture then the so-called intellectuals call it saffronisation. It pains me. Our country’s strength has been our rich heritage and culture, and it pains me when the West encroaches upon it. I am not saying that we should reject the good that the West offers, but our culture should prosper along with it,” Sharma told The Indian Express in an interview recently.