Chandigarh: At a time when the ruling BJP is being criticized for incendiary statements by some of its leaders after the mob killing in Dadri of a Muslim man over beef rumours, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has hit another jarring note.
In an interview to the Indian Express newspaper, Mr Khattar has said that Muslims in the country must give up beef.
“Muslim rahein, magar is desh mein beef khaana chhodna hi hoga unko. Yahan ki manyata hai gau (Muslims can stay, but in this country they will have to give up eating beef. The cow is an article of faith here),” Mr Khattar said.
The comment has provoked a flood of condemnation. “He has no right to remain Chief Minister,” said Congress leader Rashid Alvi.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s Ashutosh tweeted: “He is CM of Haryana. Named M L Khattar. Doesn’t know constitution, reads only RSS books. My sympathy for his knowledge.”
Mr Khattar, 61, who took charge of the BJP’s first government in Haryana a year ago, is a veteran member of the party’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
His office today said he had been misinterpreted. “He has not said that people who eat beef should go to Pakistan. He has just said the cow is considered spiritual in Hindu religion so they should not eat flesh of cow,” said Jawahar Yadav, the Chief Minister’s aide.
In the interview, Mr Khattar is also quoted as saying that the Dadri killing was the “result of a misunderstanding” in which both sides had been wrong. “It should not have happened…from both sides,” he said.
On September 28 in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, Mohammad Akhlaq, a 52-year-old blacksmith, was dragged out of his home by a mob of about 100 and beaten to death over suspicions that he had beef in his house.
Mr Khattar alleged that Akhlaq had made a “halki tippani (loose comment)” about the cow which hurt the sentiment of those who attacked him. He said the mob acted like a man would “after seeing his mother being killed or his sister getting molested,” his rage getting the better of him.
Asked whether stopping people from eating food of their choice violates a constitutional right, the Chief Minister said: “Freedom of one person is only to the extent that it is not hurting another person. They can be Muslim even if they stop eating beef, can’t they?”