NEW DELHI: Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma once again came in for sharp criticism for questioning patriotism of the country’s second largest religious group and belittling the late president A P J Abdul Kalam. Political parties and intellectuals on Friday demanded that he should be ‘kicked out’ from the union cabinet as his remarks and utterances are unbecoming for a minister.
Lashing out the cultural minister for his ‘uncultured’ remarks, Congress said it is the convoluted and vicious thought of this Government that even in trying honour the former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam they are insulting him.
Briefing media persons here, party spokesperson Dr Shakeel Ahmed said he did not need any certificate from the government for his patriotism.
“The Indian National Congress and myself a practising Muslim wants to tell the Prime Minister and his Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma that I am a Nationalist and so were my father and grandfather and we do not need a certificate from this Government to say so. It is the convoluted and vicious thought of this Government that even in trying honour the former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam they are insulting him”.
In reply to a question by this correspondent, Dr Shakeel said the Congress condemned the minister’s remarks and questioned the role of RSS and its affiliates in the freedom movement. He underlined the fact that the first war of Independence was fought under the command of last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar adding that between 1857 and 1858 around 27,000 Muslims were executed by the British in Delhi alone.
While defending the controversy over the renaming of Aurangzeb Road in New Delhi, culture minister Mahesh Sharma said during an interview with a news channel that the Mughal ruler was not someone that people considered ideal and then added,
“Aurangzeb Road ka nam bhi badal kar ek aise mahapursh ke naam par kiya hai jo Musalman hotey hue bhi itna bada rashtravaadi aur manavtavadi insaan tha – APJ Abdul Kalam, unke naam par kiya gaya hai.”
(The name of Aurangzeb Road has been changed to the name of a great human being who, despite being a Muslim, was such a great nationalist and humanist – APJ Abdul Kalam, we have named it after him)
Reacting on this, another Congress leader and spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said it has been found that the BJP, RSS or other fundamentalist elements of the Sangh Parivar speak wittingly or unwittingly such things that reveal their inner most prejudices and beliefs.
Welfare Party of India also demanded that the minister should be sacked from the cabinet. Party president Dr S Q R Ilyas said Muslims y do not need any certificate from those people (Sangh Parivar) who sided with the British during freedom struggle and have no contribution in the building of the nation. Describing the minister’s statement as a clear violation of the oath of the Indian Constitution, he said the minister has no moral right to remain in the government.
All India Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president and MP Barrister Asaduddin Owaisi lambasted the minister saying “… Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is a Culture Minister, but an uncultured man has no right whatsoever to give a nationalist certificate to 18 crore proud Indians. I would like to know from the Prime Minister that he has said that he will give Quran in one hand and computer in another hand. Is that what he meant?”
“So, what is his cabinet minister saying?… He must be kicked off from the cabinet,” he added.
Noted journalist Siddharth Varadarajan said Mahesh Sharma’s utterances about Muslims, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and other matters are not casual off-the-cuff remarks; they have to be seen in the context of the guidance provided by the RSS to the government.
In an article, Varadarajan said, “I won’t go into the other ridiculous things Sharma has been saying since the RSS conclave, including his desire to fight against “cultural pollution.” That is a topic we can save for another day. But impugning the Indianness of Indian Muslims – a central part of the RSS’s political agenda since the days of Hedgewar and Golwalkar – is a despicable thing for a minister to do. If Sharma wants to indulge his bigotry, he should resign from the cabinet and do so on his own time”.
The Union minister has also recently called for freeing the country of “cultural pollution” and teaching Mahabharata and Ramayana to students.