After facing flak for saying that there is nothing wrong with the term Hindu being applied equally to all citizens as a national identity, Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah has been forced to issue a clarification.
Defending her stand, Heptullah said that saying her words have been misinterpreted and that she used the word “Hindi” and not “Hindu’ for Indians.
Her remark is on the lines of the ideology endorsed by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh that all Indians are Hindus. Earlier in August, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had also called India a ‘Hindu nation’.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Tariq Anwar slammed Heptullah’s statement saying “it is unfortunate if she has said something like this. She is giving such statements just to be in power.”
What did Najma Heptullah say in her interview?
In her interview, Heptullah says there is nothing wrong with the term Hindu being applied equally to all citizens as a label of “national identity”, a stand similar to that of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor.
Earlier this month, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had called India a Hindu nation.
“Anything beyond the Hindu Kush mountains and on this side of the Sindh river is Hind. In Persian, they call it Hindustaniâ€¦ where the people of India live. The word Hindu originally referred to the national identity of people who live in this land. I look at it very rationally. One should not forget history,” she is quoted as saying to the newspaper.
“Poet Iqbal had famously said, ‘Hindi hain hum watan hai Hindustan hamara’. I don’t subscribe to anybody’s views. I have my democratic right to feel the way I do,” Heptullah, who joined the BJP in 2004 after a long stint with Congress, said.
In May, shortly after she assumed office, Heptullah had stirred another row when she said Parsis, not Muslims, were the minority in India.
How has the opposition reacted to Najma Heptullah’s remarks?
Meanwhile, opposition parties reacted sharply to her statements.
“Article One of the Constitution talks of India as Bharat, therefore Indians are Bharatiyas, not Hindus,” Congress spokesperson said.
“BJP is pursuing its hidden agenda of declaring India a Hindu nation. It is unfortunate that she made such comments. It is the habit of BJP leaders to give statements and then make a U-turn,” Tewari’s colleague in Congress, Shobha Oza, said.
“If Najma Heptulla has said something like this, it is unfortunate. She is giving such statements just to be in power,” NCP’s Tariq Anwar said.