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BJP, Cong MPs spar over Azad’s remarks on RSS and IS

Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress on Monday sparred in the Rajya Sabha over remarks made by Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, allegedly comparing Hindutva outfit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS).

While the ruling party and its ministers wanted Azad to withdraw his controversial remarks and apologise, the Congress leader denied drawing any parallel between the two and said he was submitting a CD of his speech to the government and was willing to face privilege motion if anything wrong was found.

After Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi slipped in a reference to the alleged remarks made by Azad, while giving the government’s response to concern by members over remarks by RSS leaders’ on continuation of reservation, Azad read out the verbatim speech he had made at an event organised by the Jamait Ulama-i-Hind last week.

He said he had in the speech stated that there was no fight between Hindus and Muslims in India but a fight on ideology.

Ruing why Muslims were joining a terrorist organisation like ISIS that is destroying Islamic traditions, Azad said he had stated that “we oppose to organisations like ISIS like we oppose RSS”.

Also, “if someone in Islam does wrong, they are no less than RSS,” he said. “Where is the comparison?” he asked. “If I had said ISIS and RSS are same”, there would have been a comparison, he said.

Azad said he had stated that Hindu, Muslim and Sikh fundamentalists have to be fought as they are against the country. “We have to fight them all together,” the Congress leader said.

Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said he personally respected Azad, but “he should think if he has knowingly or unknowingly have given respectability to ISIS”. 

Earlier, when Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members raised the issue of RSS leaders on Sunday talking of reservation being based on economic criteria, Naqvi said Azad’s comparison of RSS with ISIS was “great old party’s grand new secular formula.”

“Atankio ko phool ka guldasta aur rashtrawadion par hamla (bouquets to terrorists and attack on nationalists),” Naqvi said and demanded an apology from the Congress for drawing the comparison.

As Azad got up to respond, he was interrupted by treasury benches, including ministers.

“Please behave like educated persons,” he said to them, asking them not to bring inside the House the “intolerance they show to criticism outside”.

“Everyone who is not RSS or BJP is a terrorist to them,” he said, displaying a CD that he said contained his speech.

He said he has submitted the CD to the Leader of the House and was laying it on the Table so that it can be shown to the BJP members and ministers. “Please bring privilege motion seeking my removal,” if after watching the entire CD, anything objectionable is found in it, he said.

Azad, reading his earlier speech, said he had spoken of Hindus, judges and journalists, who were fighting for secularism. All forms of fundamentalism must be resisted, he said.

“In the fight for secularism, you will find people from all sects and religions but not in fundamentalism,” he said. 

After the clarification, the House took up other business.

In the Lok Sabha, the issue also came up briefly during the Zero Hour, with Ashwini Kumar Chopra of the BJP attacking Azad for attempting to “tarnish” the image of the RSS. He wanted a discussion on the issue in the House. 
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