Ahmedabad: The Chief Minister's Office (CMO), Gujarat has backed Narendra Modi for his puppy analogy while expressing his sadness for the infamous anti-Muslim riots of 2002.
"In response to a question related to the unfortunate incident of 2002, Gujarat Chief Minister Narenda Modi's response only shows a heightened sensitivity on his part where he chose an anecdote to explain the grief that a human being would experience on even the hurt of a dog. To talk about an incident that resulted in loss of human lives and not feel the grief is unthinkable," said the CMO in a statement late Friday.
"What is being projected is a gross distortion of what he actually said and meant," said the CMO.
Modi also took to micro-blogging site Twitter and said: "In our culture every form of life is valued & worshipped. People are best judge."
Even as the Gujarat Chief Minister justified his stand in connection with the 2002 riots, political fraternity across India slammed the BJP election campaign chief on Friday for his puppy analogy while expressing his sadness for the incidents.
"..... any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we're sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I'm a chief minister or not, I'm a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongman told Reuters news agency in an interview when he was asked a question on the deaths of Muslims in 2002 riots.
"I'm nationalist. I'm patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I'm a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So, I'm a Hindu nationalist so yes, you can say I'm a Hindu nationalist because I'm a born Hindu. I'm patriotic so nothing is wrong in it. As far as progressive, development-oriented, workaholic, whatever they say, this is what they are saying. So there's no contradiction between the two. It's one and the same image," he said in the interview to the foreign news agency.
Reacting to Modi's statement about nationalism and Hinduism and drawing the analogy of a puppy's death under wheels, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "Modi has a poor impression about the Indian people, to be a Hindu nationalist is an oxymoron. Religion can't have nation. It is a very very narrow and unsustainable idea to use a religion and treat it as a companion of nationalism."
"You need to ask some questions of your own driver and taking some action against him. Don't think Mr Modi has done that," Khurshid told media.
Other Congress leaders also condemned the remarks of Modi.
"We condemn such comparison. He should apologise to the nation," Congress general secretary Ajay Maken said in a statement.
Samajwadi Party leader Kamal Farooqi said, "Is this patriotism? When you become a Chief Minister, you take an oath, to protect your people. You are worried about a puppy. But you didn't ever apologise for the mass killings."
"It is very sad, very disturbing... What does he (Modi) think, that Muslims are worse than even puppies? He does not have a heart for them. He should feel sorry about it. We should protest about it. I as a Muslim have very strong feelings about it. He should apologise to the whole nation," Farooqi stated.
Janata Dal United leader Shivanand Tiwari said Modi is not an inclusive leader and is selective. He said 'Hindutva-vadi' people (like Modi) are destroying the Indian heritage of religious pluralism.
"We feel his psychoanalysis should be done..It will be bad if he becomes the country's PM," Shivanand Tiwari told media.
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja said, "The huge massacre could not have taken place without the active connivance of the state machinery. Now Narendra Modi says he has nothing to regret, I can't understand... what happened there is a fact of history."
"Mr Vajpayee, the then PM went to Gujarat and said nobody should cross their mark. Now in an interview, he says he has nothing to regret. I can't understand. I don't think any SIT has given him any clean chit. In fact, new revelations are coming out. New facts are coming out in the case," he said.
However, Gujarat High Court advocate Devang Nanavati said that SIT has found nothing wrong. He even said that Modi did everything to control the situation.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman also justified Modi's comments.
"It is despicable to say that Modi compared a community to dogs. It's absolutely unfortunate and I only wish that much before more comments are made and interpretations are made, people should read the interview and in what context it was made," Sitharaman said.
"This is a complete misinterpretation leading to unwanted breaking up of a controversy which doesn't exist. I appeal to all to read the interview fully and understand it before getting your retorts ready," she said.