BJP's Ananthkumar Hegde Apologises For His 'We're Here To Change The Constitution' Remark
Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Anantkumar Hegde apologised in Parliament today amid protests over his “We are here to change the Constitution” remark.
The five-term Lok Sabha lawmakers said that he wanted people to identify themselves with one religion or caste instead of calling themselves secular. At a gathering at Kukanur town in Koppal district, he further added that the ones who did identify themselves as secular “do not have identity of their parents or their blood”. He even went on to say that it was time to amend the Indian Constitution. His comments drew criticism from many people, including Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah.
“My comment was twisted. I respect the constitution and believe that it is supreme. If, however, my statement has hurt anyone’s sentiment, I have no problems in apologising for it,” Mr Hegde said in the Lok Sabha.
He earlier told reporters, according to NDTV, “I want to assure my friends that the Constitution is supreme to me, Parliament is supreme to me.”
The government had distanced itself from Mr Hegde’s comments yesterday, with union minister Vijay Goel telling the Rajya Sabha, “The government does not subscribe to views expressed by Hegde.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi told Congress workers and leaders at the function in Delhi, “The country’s Constitution is under attack by the BJP. It is our duty to defend it.”
Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha said, “People should be aware and careful as they have a threat from their own government and not from any outside source.”
What were the exact words of the union minister?
Hegde was attending an event organised by Brahmana Yuva Parishat at Koppal district in Karnataka on December 24. Speaking at the event he said, “I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular”.
The Hindu quoted him as saying,” Those claiming to be secular and progressive do not have an identity of their parents and their blood. One will get self-respect through such identity.”
Hegde was present at the event to launch the Parishat and the women’s wing website. He urged people to identify with a particular religion and caste, and said,” I will bow to you, you are aware of your blood. But if you claim to be secular, there arises a doubt about who you are.”
Talking about secularists and intellectuals, he said that “they cannot recognise their own parents but they pose as intellectuals.”
The Hindu further quoted him as saying, “Progressive thinkers do not know about history, tradition and culture. Those who themselves have erred are trying to blame others for their mistakes.”
He even said that in coming days, the Indian constitution will undergo changes. He said that the Manusmriti has become outdated and that people are now talking of Ambedkarsmriti.
“When it comes to it (secular), they point to the Constitution. Yes, we agree, it is included in the Constitution. They even refer to Manu Smriti. They don’t realise that Smritis are the statutes of the respective eras. Today, we follow Ambedkar ‘smriti’. We respect the Constitution and it has changed over time, several times; and it will change in the future. We are here to change the Constitution.”
Hegde’s comments have created quite a furore and he has drawn severe criticism from different quarters. Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah said at Garag village in Dharwad that the Union Minister had no respect for the Constitution. Saying hedge has not studied The Constitution and that he does not know about parliamentary and political knowledge, the Karnataka CM said, “I do not want to stoop to his level. We know our language and culture. He is a union minister, but spits venom”. Siddaramaiah also questioned Hegde’s knowledge of the social and the religious structure of the country. Saying that every religion was equal in the country, he added, “Each and every individual in this country is an Indian, and every religion has equal right and opportunity. He does not have this basic knowledge.”
Members of Student Federation of India (SFI) staged a protest against Hegde’s comments.
Hegde: No stranger to controversies
It is not the first time that Hegde has kicked up a storm by his comments and regressive thoughts.
He is a member of group of leaders leading the BJP’s state wide Privartana Yatra. In one of the addresses its addresses in Kundapura, Karnataka in November, he sarcastically said that the Congress government would start celebrating terrorists like Ajmal Kasab and Osama Bin Laden: “Today, they will celebrate Tipu Jayanti, then Hyder Ali, then Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasb and Bin Laden.”
In October, he asked not to be invited for the state government’s event celebrating Tipu Jayanti, calling the event as “shameful”. In his tweet he said that the event was,” glorifying a person known as brutal killer, wretched fanatic and mass rapist.”
A five time BJP MP from Uttara Kannada constituency was barred from entering New Delhi earlier this year for six months after he assaulted doctors at a private hospital at Sirsi, Karnataka.
He is also known for his hate speeches. He was booked under section 295A section of IPC for making hateful comments on Islam in a Press conference held at Sirsi on February 28, 2016. Responding to a question on Muslim youths being arrested on charges of terrorism from his constituency, Sirsi, he allegedly said, “As long as there is Islam in this world, there will be terrorism. Until we eradicate Islam from the world, we will not be able to eliminate terrorism from the world.”
It is very appalling to witness a Union Minister making such hateful comments. India recognises itself as a secular country. Trying to polarise and divide people in the name of religion and caste is extremely dangerous. As we look forward to move the country away from the plague of casteism, such comments push us several steps behind. In an attempt to gain political mileage, such comments by leaders like Hegde have effect on the people’s psyche, which motivates them to commit heinous crimes in the name of religion.