Controversial comments made by two ministers of the BJP-led Goa government, one wishing for a Hindu nation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and another claiming India is already one, created an uproar both in the state assembly and across social media Friday.
Minutes after the opposition Congress and an independent legislator staged a walked out demanding a clarification from Co-operation Minister Deepak Dhavalikar for his Thursday’s comments that India would become a Hindu nation if everyone supported Modi, Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza dropped another bombshell, saying India was always a Hindu country and that he was Christian Hindu.
“India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I, am a Christian Hindu,” D’Souza, one of the seniormost minority members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Goa, told reporters in the assembly complex.
The ‘Hindu nation’ comments have found backers amongst Hindu right wing groups, but have also been the target of criticism from other politicians as well as civil society commentators on the social media.
Earlier in the day, Leader of Opposition Pratapsing Rane, while staging a walkout in protest against Dhavalikar’s comments, said: “He (Dhavalikar) has taken oath on the Constitution which swears by ‘Secular Socialist Democratic Republic’ principles in the preamble. How can he say India will be a ‘Hindu nation’ under Modi? He has to explain this to us.”
On Thursday, Dhavalikar, who belongs to regional outfit Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), while speaking during a motion congratulating Modi on becoming PM had said: “If we all support it and we stand by Narendra Modi systematically, then I feel a Hindu Rashtra will be established.”
On Friday however, Dhavalikar said that the word “Hindu” had a “big meaning”, adding that he had no intention to hurt the feeling of people from other religions.
Dhavalikar’s colleague Lavu Mamledar however said that the “Hindu Nation” claim is wrong.
“If he has said Hindu nation, then it is wrong, because our country is secular. People of different caste, creed and religion stay in India,” he said.
On the social media, in a reaction to the comments by both D’Souza and Dhavalikar, a minority voice has expressed regret at voting for the BJP in the last election.
“We have to blame the Congress for making us so desperate and hurling us into the arms of the BJP. The Congress was arrogant; corrupt with their family rule. Unfortunately, the cure was worse than the disease. A third alternative is the need of the hour, but it should not be the case of old wine in new bottles!” said Derrick Dias, a banker.
The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti meanwhile has welcomed the comments. A formal statement released by the Hindu right wing organization says Dhavalikar’s statement gives “solace to millions of Hindus”.
“The issue of establishment of the Hindu Nation which was confined only to the Hindus till yesterday has attracted nationwide debate due to Dhavalikar’s statement,” it said.
Christians account for nearly 26 percent of Goa’s population.