Ghaziabad/New Delh: Union Minister V K Singh today kicked up a huge political row when he tried to shield the government from blame in the Faridabad Dalit burning incident, saying the "government cannot be held responsible if somebody stones a dog".
The dog analogy provoked demands for his ouster by the opposition, which sought registration of a criminal case against him under the Scheduled Castes Prevention of Atrocities Act, and drew parallels with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "puppy" remark made with referrence to Gujarat riots which was construed as directed against the Muslims.
"See, the thing is, never associate local incidents with the Central government (sarkar). There is an inquiry going on. There was a dispute between families. The dispute...how did it turn out...where did the administration fail, after these it come to the Centre.
"For everything...like if somebody throws a stone at a dog, then the government is responsible...it is not like that," Singh said in Ghaziabad, the constituency he representsin Parliament, while referring to the burning alive of a Dalit family allegedly by upper caste Rajputs in Haryana's Faridabad which left two toddlers dead on the intervening night of October 19-20.
Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari described the dog analogy used by Singh as "preposterous and abominable".
"....comparing the death of two little children who were burnt alive to possibly the stoning of a dog...what could be more preposterous and abominable than that. This reflects the mindset of the government.
"To recall the Prime Minister of India made a similar analogy about two years back in an interview to Reuters when he said that if a pup gets crushed under the wheels of a car that needs to be emphasised too. That remark was in the context of the Gujarat pogrom," he said.
Later, in a statement, Singh described as "dastardly and cowardly act" the killing of two little children in Faridabad "which is a shocking reflection on the state of our society."
"From all indications, the horrific incident was triggered off by a feud between two families.
Our society is made up of many individuals, and the act of every sick mind cannot be put at the door of the government, regardless of which party is in power.
"It does not matter who or what the political affiliations are, the perpetrators have to be dealt with without mercy. I also appeal to the media not to deliberately twist my words out of context. What I have said and continue to say is very clear, and there is no ambiguity about it," he said.
CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat described Singh's remarks as "arrogance of casteism" and demanded registration of a criminal case against him, while raking up Modi's puppy remark made when he was Gujarat Chief Minister.
"His statement is a clear casteist statement and it comes under the provisions of the prevention of crime against SC Act. Therefore, this gentleman has to be booked under the Act for casteism and casteist comments.
"Secondly, how can such a man remain in the Central Cabinet. Of course, we all know that Modiji at one time had talked about puppies in relation to a particular community. But at least now that he is Prime Minister, hopefully he will get over his own prejudices and take action against this person," she said.
Singh, however, insisted a controversy has been created out of "unconnected sentences".
"I have given an analogy by seeing an animal in front of me out there in that village (where he had gone for an event in Ghaziabad). Which is what happened. I have not said anything about those people (the victims of burning incident).
"All I said was suppose somebody wants to hit a dog and everybody starts saying in the media that this is what the government is doing....Now how it relates to that I cannot understand," he said.
Under unrelenting attack from the opposition, he also tweeted: "My statement wasn't intended 2draw an analogy. My men & I put our lives on the line 4the nation irrespective of caste,creed & religion."
"As citizens of this gr8 nation v r sensitive but also responsible.Agenda of India is bigger than any single neighborhood or individual," he said in another tweet.
However, an unsparing Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, "It is condemnable, it is shocking, it is inhumane to say the least. General V K Singh has insulted not only the entire Dalit community of this country but all Indians. It reflects the mindset of the Modi government which insults Dalits, which insults the minorities and looks down upon the people who are poor and downtrodden."
He demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sack him and tender an apology on Singh's behalf. Surjewala said a criminal case should be registered against the minister under Prevention of Atrocities on Schedule Castes Act.