Kolkata: Questioning the sudden awakening of their conscience, Union Minister Uma Bharti said on Saturday that all those who have been returning awards in protests against intolerance were themselves fanning communalism in the country.
Addressing a public rally in the city on the occasion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's birth anniversary, the union water resources minister said the "manufactured protest" by the intelligentsia was tarnishing the country's image internationally.
"All those who are returning awards and clamouring for intolerance, they themselves are fanning communalism. It's a manufactured movement and an attempt to malign the country internationally," said Bharti.
A host of authors, filmmakers and even scientists have been returning prestigious government awards in protest against rising intolerance in the country including the killing of scholar MM Kalburgi in Karnataka and lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri over rumours of beef eating.
"The incidents which they are protesting against did not happen in BJP ruled states. Instead of asking the governments of UP and Karnataka, why are they pinning the blame on the BJP and seeking answers from Modi?" asked Bharti.
"I want to ask all the award returnees, why this sudden awakening of your conscience? Where was your conscience during the 1984 (anti-Sikh) riots? Let me tell all the returnees, you will not be able to cause any harm to the prime minister. This is only an attempt to derive political mileage by spreading communalism," she asserted.
Bharti also claimed India won its real independence only after Modi became prime minister.
"In 1947, only the territory of India achieved independence but its soul continued to be under siege of the anti-national Leftists. From the academia to the intelligentsia and the media, all were under the influence of the Leftists. But with Modi becoming the prime minister, the country's soul attained freedom, the media, the intelligentsia, the academia, all became free," she said.
She also slammed the organising of a "beef party" in the city on Friday and urged people not to fall prey to such communal provocations.
"I want to remind the people of the country including Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) and other self proclaimed secular leaders - we follow the principles cherished by Patel which are be tolerant towards religion but be aggressive for the sake of the country," she said.
Asserting India's tolerance, Bharti cited the frisking of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan at US airports as examples of intolerance in other countries.
"All those who are clamouring about intolerance, let me remind them that a famous actor with Khan as his surname was frisked at a US airport even as a long line of his fans waited for him outside. Another Indian minister from India also with Khan as his surname was subjected to the same treatment," added Bharti.