Minister of State for Skill Development Anantkumar Hegde kicked up another controversy by mocking secularism and describing “secular people as those who do not have an identity of their parental blood”.
Hegde remarked that elected leaders would go to any lengths in changing the Constitution. “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. I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular,” he said.
Hegde was speaking at a function organised by the Brahmana Yuva Parishat and women’s organisation at Kukkanur in Koppal district.
He urged people to identify themselves by their religion and caste rather than promote secularism. “I respect the constitution but the constitution has changed according to the times on many occasions in the past and it will change in the future. We are here to change the Constitution,” Hegde said.
His comments drew sharp criticism from both opposition leaders and groups of progressive thinkers in different parts of the state. Members of the Students’ Federation of India staged a protest in Koppal condemning the comments.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also criticized Hegde’s remarks. Reacting to Hegde’s comments, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that the Union minister did not respect the Constitution. “I do not want to stoop to his level. We know our language and culture. He is a Union minister, but spits venom,” said the Chief Minister speaking to The New Indian Express.
Hegde, who has been part of the contingent of leaders leading the BJP’s state-wide Parivartana Yatra, is no stranger to controversy. In an earlier speech in the Parivartana Yatra in Kundapur, the BJP leader had sarcastically suggested that the Congress government will soon start celebrating terrorists like Ajmal Kasab and Osama Bin Laden. “Today, they will celebrate Tipu Jayanti, then Hyder Ali, then Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab and Bin Laden,” he had said on November 13.
In 2016, Hegde had reportedly told mediapersons that there will be terrorism in the world as long as Islam exists. “Until we eradicate Islam from the world we will not be able to eliminate terrorism from the world. Islam is a bomb placed to disrupt world peace. As long as there is Islam there will be no peace in the world,” he was quoted as saying.