A statement by Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde, who equated his critics to “barking dogs” at an event organised by his Skill Development Ministry at Ballari in Karnataka, has been construed as an attack on Dalit groups which had staged a protest against him at Ballari over a remark he had made last year about changing the Constitution.
Hedge, who faced black flag protests from Dalit groups on Saturday when he arrived to attend a job fair and skill exhibition, said in his speech: “We have our commitment to the nation and we will not be swayed by barking dogs.”
Actor Prakash Raj has construed the comment as a reference to Dalits who protested against Hedge. He tweeted: “Serial offender…minister Ananthkumar Hegde at it again….he calls Dalits DOGs for protesting against his controversial Constitution remark…’’
The minister denied the charge on Twitter, calling the actor’s remark “glaring propaganda by the ugly distorted minds, who refuse to grow’’.
Hegde has made controversial remarks at various recent events. On January 19, at an event of the Skill Development Ministry in Bengaluru, Hegde claimed that an Indian flew the first aircraft long before the Wright brothers did in the early 1900s. “History says Wright brothers invented the airplane in 1905. But much before that, in 1895, Mr Shivkar Talpade tried and flew a plane for one-and-a-half hours at Chowpatty. Unfortunately, we have forgotten that,” Hegde said at the inauguration of a seminar on Aerospace & Aviation Industry: Skill Development – Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Roadmap and Way Forward, organised by his ministry. Hegde said the recording of history has a Western bias.
Hegde was reiterating a view expressed earlier by his ministerial colleague Satya Pal Singh. The Minister of State for HRD, who recently questioned Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, had said in September 2017 that students at IITs need to be taught that the airplane is a discovery made in India. “Why are students not taught that before the Wright brothers, an Indian called Shivkar Bapuji Talpade was the first to invent the airplane?,” Singh had said.
Hegde made another controversial statement at the Skill India Skillathon event in Belagavi region of Karnataka, where he derided intellectuals, poets and writers as people in the pursuit of government largesse. “They call themselves intellectuals because they want government sites [a reference to allocated properties]. We are supposed to assume what they write is literature and poetry.”
Last December, Hegde set off a controversy by saying that those who call themselves secular lacked an identity of their own. “Those who, without knowing their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don’t have an identity,” the five-time BJP MP said at an event organised by Brahman Yuva Parishad in Karnataka’s Koppal district. He had also said the BJP would remove the word secular from the Constitution, but later apologised in Parliament for the remark after the opposition sought his apology.