BJP MP Tejasvi Surya has been criticized for commenting at a rally in support of the citizenship law that only "puncture-wallahs" and the illiterate were opposing it. The young Bengaluru South MP made the remarks to loud cheers at the Town Hall in Bengaluru on Sunday.
"Those working in Bangalore's IT and BT sectors - lawyers, IT professionals - those contributing to development. Regular daily workers, rickshaw drivers... are all here standing together at this rally. But these illiterates - if you cut open their chest, you can't find two words inside them - just like puncturewalas - are the only ones opposing this law," Tejasvi Surya said at the rally in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
The 29-year-old was accused by critics of using a slur for Muslims and the underprivileged.
Srivatsa, a Congress leader, tweeted: "Want to know what privilege sounds like? MP @Tejasvi_Surya, who hails from a rich political family, mocks CAA protestors as ILLITERATES and PUNCTURE WALAS. Are the poor not supposed to protest now? Such crass elitism is unbecoming of a parliamentarian.
Want to know what privilege sounds like?— Srivatsa (@srivatsayb) December 23, 2019
MP @Tejasvi_Surya, who hails from a rich political family, mocks CAA protestors as ILLITERATES and PUNCTURE WALAS
Are the poor not supposed to protest now?
Such crass elitism is unbecoming of a parliamentarianpic.twitter.com/Ijn3vuYLGB
On one hand, PM keeps talking about his humble chaiwala background— Deepak (@Deepak_Ramaiah) December 23, 2019
On the other, his MP @Tejasvi_Surya mocks people saying illiterates & Puncture walas are protesting
Tejasvi, are these people singing national anthem at Town Hall illiterates? Shame on you for such cheap talk pic.twitter.com/NJ3xpObgGm
Tejasvi Surya is just a privileged Amul Baby.— Advaid (@Advaidism) December 23, 2019
The PM always brags about his humble chaiwala background and his MP's mock protesting citizens as illiterates & Puncture walas.
23 crores Indians go to bed on an empty stomach daily. Imagine if they all rise up??
Tejasvi Surya, who debuted in the national election earlier this year and won, also said at the rally: "This is a new India we are creating. This is India which will have a $5 trillion economy. Your namby-pamby secularism that you people have built so far will not work anymore."
Speaking to NDTV, Tejasvi Surya clarified, "In literature, writing and in public speaking, you use certain phrases metaphorically. They should not be taken literally. Having said that, the whole intention was to say that the ones protesting against CAA are not aware of the details of the Act. Without knowing the ABC, people are protesting. The ones who understand the Bill are in favour of the Bill."
When NDTV asked about the protests by people including historian Ramachandra Guha, Mr Surya said, "It is sad that some people despite their education and Ivy League degrees choose to ignore truth and deliberately indulge in misinformation."
He said that much of his speech has been about the requests about democratic protests and not to indulge in violence. "Whether the victim or a communal fight is Naveen or Naushad, life is the same," he said. "The sad part is the focus is not on the 98% of the speech when I have made fervent appeal for democratic process. The focus is on one metaphoric sentence which is trying to be twisted out of context."
Protests have raged across India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which, for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principals of the constitution.