Chandigarh: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today back-stepped after a howl of protests over a newspaper interview in which he was quoted as saying that Muslims in the country must give up beef.
"My statement has been twisted. Even if there is a word which hurts someone's sentiments I am ready to regret," Mr Khattar said.
The Indian Express today quoted Mr Khattar as saying: "Muslim rahein, magar is desh mein beef khaana chhodna hi hoga unko. Yahan ki manyata hai gau (Muslims can stay, but in this country they will have to give up eating beef. The cow is an article of faith here)."
The comments come at a time the ruling BJP has faced criticism over its leaders making incendiary remarks in the aftermath of the mob killing of a Muslim man in Dadri over beef rumours.
As rival parties accused him of saying Muslims should go to Pakistan, the Chief Minister clarified: "I didn't suggest anyone should go to Pakistan. It has been our tradition for ages that we have lived together respecting other faiths. We should show respect each other's sentiments." He added that "Muslim brothers of Mewat district have voluntarily given up beef.'
In the interview, Mr Khattar is also quoted as saying that the Dadri killing was the "result of a misunderstanding" in which both sides had been wrong. He said the mob acted like "a man would after seeing his mother being killed or his sister getting molested."
The Chief Minister today amended that "no one is allowed to take law into their hands even if someone's sentiments are hurt."
Mr Khattar, 61, who took charge of the BJP's first government in Haryana a year ago, is a veteran member of the party's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
His interview has provoked a flood of condemnation from political parties. "He has no right to remain Chief Minister," said Congress leader Rashid Alvi.
The Aam Aadmi Party's Ashutosh tweeted: "He is CM of Haryana. Named M L Khattar. Doesn't know constitution, reads only RSS books. My sympathy for his knowledge."