In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday slammed him for saying that "evacuation of 46 nurses from war-torn Iraq in 2014 was done because they were Christians".
"You made this statement to target the majority Christian vote base in Meghalaya. The uniqueness of our nation is our diversity.
"Patriotism unites Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and (people from) all other religions in troubled times and in celebrations, inspite of the religious differences. You could have at least thought about our Constitution before making such remarks," Chandy said in the open letter.
The senior Congress leader was reacting to Modi's election speech in poll-bound Meghalaya on Thursday, where he said: "It was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government which rescued nurses from Iraq and brought them safe to Kerala. They all were Christians."
"As the PM of world's greatest secular democratic nation, your words are highly outrageous. The 46 Malayalee nurses were able to return because of joint efforts by the then state government and the BJP-led central government. The Malayalee community in Middle East also supported the rescue operations," he wrote.
"As one who witnessed the pain and anguish of their families... All of us had been a part of that, not because they were Christians, but what held us on was that they are Indians and they were in deep trouble.
"I am sure Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will vouch for me on this," stated Chandy.
Chandy was Chief Minister when the nurses were rescued from Iraq and last week spent a few days campaigning for the Congress party in Meghalaya.