New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's "Hindu terror" remarks saw the government and the BJP locking horns again Tuesday as the Congress tried to blunt the opposition attack by saying it was an inadvertent comment and terror has no religion.
As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued to demand the sacking of Shinde, union Home Secretary R.K. Singh said it cannot be denied that the Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express blasts accused belonged to right-wing organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"Nobody can deny that," Singh told reporters, adding that there are statements by witnesses to prove this.
Shinde had referred to "Hindu terrorism" and "saffron terrorism" during the Congress conclave in Jaipur Sunday.
"After investigations, we have seen that be it the BJP or the RSS, their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism. This is a matter of concern. We are keeping a strict eye on it," Shinde had said in his speech Sunday.
On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, backing Shinde strongly, said his comments were "based on facts" as revealed by investigative agencies.
"Our stated position is based entirely on facts as the investigative agencies have made available to the government," Khurshid told reporters.
"We have categorically said many times that any form of violence that is propagated by extremists of any kind, irrespective of religion, is what is dangerous for the country, terror does not have a religion," the minister said.
"Religion should not be associated with terror, it is terror that we are fighting and those are the facts available... We should not be distracted by a phrase here and a phrase there, the intention and determination is what that matters," Khurshid said.
The BJP immediately pounced on Khurshid's remarks, terming it "irresponsible" and said it would undo India's achievements over the years in "exposing" Pakistan's nexus with terror internationally.
"The remarkable achievement of India's foreign policy over the years in exposing Pakistan internationally is not to be compromised by these types of utterly irresponsible statements by the home minister and external affairs minister," said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Reiterating its demand for the removal of Shinde, the BJP said his statement on "Hindu terrorism" has favoured Pakistan and terrorists.
In an attempt to mollify the BJP, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said: "Sometimes people utter words which they do not mean...no Congress leader would say such things intentionally."
"This controversy should end now," he added.
Dwivedi added that "terrorism has no colour and no religion".
"As far as saffron colour is concerned, how can we have an objection with it? During our independence struggle, saffron was the symbol of sacrifice. It is there in our national as well as party flag," said Dwivedi.
RSS leader Ram Madhav termed the home minister's statement "condemnable".
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, addressing media in Jammu, said: "The home minister has access to all the intelligence from across the country and he would not make any irresponsible statement."
Earlier, BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said the home minister's statement had "worked in favour of Pakistan and terrorists. We had cornered Pakistan on the international stage on terror, but Shinde has now given voice to them."
"We don't want him to retract the statement, we want the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) to retract him from the post of home minister," he said.
The BJP also demanded a clarification if it was a "planned statement or a slip of the tongue".
"(Pakistan's interior minister) Rehman Malik and (Jamat-ud-Da'wah chief) Hafiz Saeed have welcomed Sushilkumar Shinde's statement," the BJP leader said.
Malik Monday said Pakistan had predicted the growth of "saffron terror".
Jamat-ud-Da'wah (JuD) chief and Mumbai terror accused Hafiz Saeed Monday demanded a ban on organisations such as the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The VHP held a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and burnt an effigy of Shinde.
The LeT chief had urged the international community to declare India "a state supporting terrorism on its soil" in view of Shinde's remarks.