Guwahati: Rameswar Teli, a BJP Lok Sabha member from Assam, on Tuesday alleged that litterateurs from across the country returned their Sahitya Akademi awards for money. He later apologised, saying his statements were not intended to hurt anyone.
Addressing a press conference in Dibrugarh on Tuesday, Teli, who represents Dibrugarh constituency in the Lok Sabha, said renowned litterateurs including Assam's Homen Borgohain had taken Rs 10-Rs 15 lakh and returned the awards to blame the BJP government at the centre.
"People who returned the awards were all those who got the Sahitya Akademi awards during the Congress tenure. They did not receive the awards during the BJP government's time. They returned the awards after taking Rs 10-Rs 15 lakh," he alleged.
Teli's remark, however, triggered sharp reactions from various sections of society, forcing the BJP leader to withdraw his statement immediately.
"I apologise to the people of Assam for my remarks. My statements were not intended to hurt anyone," Teli told news channels immediately after his remarks were telecast.
Noted litterateur Homen Borgohain, who is also a journalist, had last month returned the award to the Akademi as a mark of protest against growing intolerance in the country.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi termed Teli's allegation baseless, unfortunate and disrespectful.
"Such an allegation is an insult to the fraternity of journalism and intelligentsia in our society," Gogoi said.
Reacting to the allegation, Borgohain said: "I just want to say that if a politician resorts to this kind of comment, it is unfortunate. If this kind of politician comes and fills up political parties, it is unfortunate for the state."
Regional political party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) termed the allegation unfortunate and asked the Lok Sabha member to restrain himself, while farmers' body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) also condemned Teli's statements.
Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was recently appointed BJP's Assam unit chief, called up Borgohain and apologised for Teli's comments.
He also asked the parliamentarian to apologise before the people.