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Centre won't be drawn into son-of-the-soil debate
April 16, 2008 14:34 IST
The Centre on Wednesday refused to be drawn into the 'son-of-the-soil' debate, with Home Minister Shivraj Patil asserting national pride was above everything.
When Shiv Sena MP Manohar Joshi, during a supplementary on the "anti-migrant drive" in Maharashtra, sought to know from Patil if he was proud be a Maharashtrian, the home minister said: "I am proud to be an Indian and I think Maharashtra is in India."
Patil hails from Maharashtra that has recently seen Shiv Sena's breakaway faction Maharashtra Navnirman Sena speaking against migrant north Indians. It has also been accused of instigating violence against them.
"Maharashtra is part of India and I am not going to separate Maharashtra from India," Patil said asserting national pride was above all feelings.
Joshi's remarks on regional pride and that jobs should go to local people drew sharp criticism from the Left parties and the Third Front constituents Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party and Janata Dal-United.
His statement that there was "no anti-migrant drive" in Maharashtra was strongly objected to by Jaya Bachchan.
After Patil's reply, Bachchan, wife of superstar Amitabh Bachchan [Images] who has the most visible target of the 'son-of-the-soil' and anti-migrant campaign in Maharashtra, wanted to raise a question, but Chairman Hamid Ansari ruled that only three supplementaries would be allowed during the Question Hour.
Not satisfied, Bachchan and other SP members staged a walk out of the House.
Sharad Yadav (JD-U) criticised media for "over-playing" and "glorifying" the protests by MNS and subsequent arrest of its chief Raj Thackrey and said he should have been arrested on the very day he made anti-migrant statements.
Patil said it was not correct to state that all Maharashtrians were against migrants. "There were only a handful people on the road (against the migrants)... Majority accept people from outside the state," he said.
Strict action should be taken against people indulging in anti-migrant violence, but the Centre cannot dictate to the state government under what sections of the Indian Penal Code action should be taken, he said.
The homes of people who fled the state following the protests will be returned and if it not done, the state government will be asked to do so, he said.
The minister said politicians should not make statements that create rift between people on caste, creed, religion or regional lines. "We should be careful that our utterances do not create a divide."
As per information available from the state government, Patil said no anti-migrant drive has again been started by the MNS against the workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
However, following the February incidents, 336 offences were registered and 1,575 persons were arrested for substantive offences in addition to preventive action against 5,159 persons.
The state government, he said, has given ex-gratia assistance in 21 cases.