New Delhi: The government today broke its silence over the recent debate on rising intolerance in the country, with Union finance minister Arun Jaitley appealing for calm and restraint, and asking people to engage in "debate, not vandalism".
"It is important that people indulging in this are strongly criticised, all right-thinking sections will have to distance themselves from such methodologies," the minister said at a media conference in Delhi.
In the recent weeks, lynchings over alleged cow slaughter and beef consumption have been reported from several parts of the country; ink and paint attacks have taken place on columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni and a lawmaker from Jammu and Kashmir and over the last one year, three well-known rationalists have been murdered. More than 40 authors have returned their Sahitya Akademi award citing these incidents, fueling the debate.
"Some of these issues are extremely serious, some can reflect on inter-community relations, others can reflect on sensitive areas such as Jammu and Kashmir," the finance minister said. "Therefore, there has to be a proper and civilised mode of discussing and debating these issues."
The minister's words also underscored the message to BJP leaders, who had made incendiary statements over the lynching in Dadri on September 28. On Sunday, sources said BJP chief Amit Shah pulled up the leaders and conveyed to them that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "angry" over their out of turn statements.
"Party president has very strongly taken it up with them, the Prime Minister has conveyed his views, all of them have been spoken to," Mr Jaitley today confirmed.
The Prime Minister, who had been criticised by the opposition for his silence, had spoken out at a rally in Bihar on October 8 -- a day after President Pranab Mukherjee called for amity.
While the PM did not mention Dadri, he had referred to the President's words and underscored that Hindus and Muslims should fight poverty and not each other.
Yesterday, the President too made another appeal for unity and tolerance, urging the nation "eliminate the Asuras or divisive forces". Referring to what he called "recent events as highlighted by the media" the President said these reports were planting doubts on whether the country is "progressing on the right path".