New Delhi: Former BJP MP Tarun Vijay kicked up a racism row on Friday after he appeared to suggest that Indians cannot be called racist as people live with those from south India who are “black”.
Vijay’s controversial comments during a panel discussion on an international news channel sparked an outrage with the Congress saying it was shocking while the DMK said it was funny.
Seeking to defend India against the charge of racism following attacks on African students, he said, “If we (Indians) were racist, why would we have the entire south? Which is you know… completely Tamil, you know Kerala, you know Karnataka and Andhra. Why do we live with them? We have blacks, black people all around us”.
Facing an all-round backlash, especially on social media, the former editor of Panchjanya, a RSS-affiliated weekly, tendered an apology on Twitter.
BJP spokesperson Shaina N C said Vijay could have phrased his comments differently.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the comments showed the saffron party’s tendency to discriminate among people of the country.
Vijay claimed that people with African ancestors have been living amicably in Maharashtra and Gujarat. He also said Indians worship black gods and referred to Lord Krishna.
Faced with criticism, he said his words were perhaps not enough to convey what he wanted to say. “Feel bad, really feel sorry, my apologies to those who feel I said different than what I meant.”
“I feel the entire statement was this; we have fought racism and we have people with different colour and culture, and still never had any racism.”
He, however, claimed that he never called south India as “black”. “I never, never, even in a slip, termed south India as black. I can die but how can I ridicule my own culture, my own people and my own nation? Think before you misinterpret my badly framed sentence,” he tweeted in response to accusations of racism.”
DMK MP T K S Elangovan said Vijay’s comments were funny as not all people in the south India are dark-skinned and cited the example of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.
His party’s spokesperson said his comments offered a glimpse of a divide between north India and south India. Congress leader Khushboo said such remarks by the BJP leader were “shocking” and he should have been more careful.
The actress-turned-politician noted that he has worked to promote the Tamil culture. “This is a country which is secular and does not believe in any colour and here is a party which is trying to give one single colour to it. This is absolutely not acceptable,” Khushboo said.
BJP spokesperson Shaina N C said her party believes in inclusive approach towards every religion, language and culture.
“May be he (Vijay) could have worded it differently…For whatever words (used by Vijay), India continues to be a diverse country,” she said.