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Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday, 01st December 2015, said the
government won't allow intolerance at any cost and urged intellectuals who have
returned their awards to take them back, as Congress vice president Rahul accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of silence over remarks
justifying intolerance by some of his colleagues.
Rajnath Singh, who wound up a two-day
debate in the Lok Sabha, reached out to the opposition and promised that mistakes
if any would be rectified by the government.
The debate saw furious Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) members repeatedly refer to the 1975-77 Emergency, the anti-Sikh
riots of 1984 and the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley to
take digs at the Congress. These were dubbed the three biggest instances of
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha to mark the
125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, one of the prime architects of the
constitution, Modi said: "The mantra of unity should be in focus... There
are many excuses to be divided but we must look for opportunities to be
"We wanted a united India,"
he said, referring to the partition of the country in 1947. But Modi steered
away from the topic of intolerance.
Rajnath Singh did not. He rejected
charges of intolerance hurled at the government, and said the BJP and Modi were
the worst victim of intolerance in politics.
Gandhi asked Modi not to learn wrong
lessons from Pakistan, which "has failed because they did not allow the
voice of people to be heard".
"Our greatest strength is our
tolerance," he said during a speech that saw repeated interruptions by BJP
MPs. At one time, Gandhi was taunted as he took a sip of water. "At least
let me drink water," he exclaimed.
Gandhi asked: "Will the prime
minister start listening to the voice of our people? Or will he stand by and
watch as his colleagues trample on people's voice?
"Does he (Modi) think he can
condemn our nation into silence?"
The Congress leader cited instances to
back his charge of intolerance, including the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar
Pradesh on charges of eating beef. He sought the resignation of union minister
V.K. Singh for allegedly comparing Dalit children with dogs.
Rajnath Singh said: "The country
will decide who is intolerant. As far as the government is concerned, we will
not allow intolerance in any circumstances."
He said he was prepared to meet the
intellectuals who have returned the awards. "Let's talk." The
government was willing to take any step towards harmony and correct mistakes if
Rajnath Singh said an attempt had been
made to defame the Modi government by returning literary and other awards.
As he referred to tensions in some
Muslim countries, opposition members asked him to reply to allegations concerning
the Modi government.
NCP leader Supriya Sule said:
"Rajnath ji, you had asked for suggestions. I am giving you one: please
ask your ministers to think before they speak."
BJP's Kirron Kher said intellectuals
and writers did not think of returning their awards when thousands of Kashmiri
Pandits fled the Kashmir Valley and after the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 that left
Congress leader and former minister
Shashi Tharoor said there should not only be respect for differences but
acceptance of differences. "You cannot (sell) 'Make in India' abroad while
condoning 'Hate in India' at home."
At the end of the debate, however,
opposition members from the Congress, RJD, JD-U, Trinamool Congress and Left
trooped out of the house.