Amidst a row over eating beef, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said no restrictions can be put on food habits in a secular country like India but the sentiments of the majority should be respected in Hindu-majority as well as Christian and Muslim-majority states.
"India is a secular country and food habits cannot be stopped," he said over phone from Aizawl against the backdrop of remarks by his ministerial colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi that those who want to eat beef should go to Pakistan.
At the same time, Rijiju said the Hindu faith and sentiments must be respected in a Hindu-majority state.
"I told them that when we visit Hindu-majority Maharashtra or Gujarat, we must respect the sentiments of the majority and should not do anything which would hurt the sentiments of the majority.
"Similarly, when someone visits a Christian-majority or Muslim-majority area, they should respect the sentiments of majority local people," said the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs.
He said the Indian Constitution has given freedom to practice the faith anyone likes and there is no restriction on that.
On reports that he had said he eats beef and nobody can stop him, Rijiju said, "I never said that I eat beef. I said that we must respect each other's faith, belief and food habit."
He said in India, a new fashion has developed where a balanced view is disregarded and anybody who speaks against Hindus is treated as secular.
"Why do we need to say something against Hindus to become a secular? We should focus on development and communal harmony. The Prime Minister has a vision for 1.2 billion Indians and let's not divide it on communal line," he said.
The junior home minister is currently visiting Northeastern states to highlight NDA government's achievements in the first year.
Last week, Naqvi had defended the ban on cow slaughter and beef in two BJP-ruled states -- Maharashtra and Haryana.
"It is not about loss or profit... it is an issue of faith and belief. It is a sensitive issue for the Hindus. Those who can't do without beef can go to Pakistan or Arab countries or any other part of world where it is available,” he had said.
Image: Kirren Rijuju, minister of state for home. Photograph: PTI/file