New Delhi: Union Minority Affairs Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Najma Heptullah on Friday clarified that she had used the word 'Hindi' and not 'Hindu' in her reported remarks that the term is used to identify all Indian citizens.
Speaking to Zee Media, the Cabinet minister clarified her statement, saying that she was misinterpreted by the interviewer on her usage of the term 'Hindu' in an interview to a newspaper.
“I had used the word Hindi, I did not use the word Hindu,” the BJP minister asserted, adding the Hindi term is used in the Arab world to identify Indians.
Making her stand clear, Heptullah said during the interview, she was referring to the identity of the Indians and it has nothing to do with any religion.
When asked to comment on whether she endorsed Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat's view statement that all Hindustanis are Hindus, she firmly replied: “I am only responsible for what I say, and it won't be right on my part to comment on RSS chief's statement as I haven't spoken to him on this matter.”
"If they go to Iran they are known as Hindustani. That is our nationality and identity... The word is 'Hindi'," she further said.
Earlier Heptullah told ANI: "I had used the word 'Hindi', I did not use the word 'Hindu'. Hindi is an Arabic word. We call all Indians Hindi. People who go from India to the Gulf countries are known as Hindi. The boy (interviewer) had written by mistake. I always said Hindi and we are all Indians. I still stand by it."
A huge controversy erupted after a newspaper reported that the Minority Affairs Minister endorsed Bhagwat's view saying that there is nothing wrong in calling all Indians Hindus.
"The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture," Bhagwat had said.
The BJP leader's comments come days after the RSS chief received a huge flak from non-BJP parties for his suggestion that all Hindustanis are Hindus with many leaders wondering if he has read the Constitution and really believes in it.
The RSS chief also said that Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all.
Meanwhile, earlier today, political personalities reacted strongly to the Heptullah's statement in the newspaper.
Reacting to the report, Congress leader Manish Tewari told ANI that Article 1 of Constitution talks of India as Bharat, therefore Indians are 'Bharatiyas' not Hindus.
The criticism came from other quarters as well. NCP leader Tariq Anwar said, “If Najma Heptulla has said something like this, it is unfortunate. Just to be in power she is giving such statements.”
Earlier, Tewari had lambasted RSS chief and said Bhagwat would be well-advised to read the Constitution which very specifically states that India is Bharat, a union of state, and the word "Hindustan" is nowhere mentioned.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had supported Bhagwat's view, saying that there is nothing wrong in his remarks.
"I support the comments made by Mohan Bhagwat. When he says that India is a Hindu nation, what's wrong with it. Balasaheb Thackeray used to say the same thing for a long time. So how can we change our stand on the issue today?" Uddhav said.
Seeking to downplay the row over Bhagwat's comments, BJP leader Vinay katiyar said, "what he(Bhagwat) meant by 'Hindu' was 'Hindustani'. He never spoke about interfering in religious practices of people."