The Union minister Gen (Retd) V K Singh on Thursday sparked a major political controversy yet again by using an analogy of "stoning of a dog" in his bid to shield the government in the recent horrific incident of a Dalit family being set ablaze in a Faridabad village in Haryana in which two infants were killed. An incensed Opposition – including the Congress, Left and AAP among others – demanded immediate sacking of Gen Singh from the Narendra Modi ministry and registration of a criminal case against him under the Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Gen Singh said his dog remark was "distorted" and "torn out of context" and that he had not meant offence to the victim Dalit family.
The BJP, which rules both Haryana and the Centre, also defended him, claiming that his remark was "blown out of proportion".
Seeking to corner the Modi government in the midst of the charged Bihar assembly elections, the Opposition while slamming Gen Singh also went after the PM as it drew parallels with the latter’s controversial "puppy" remark – made months before last year’s general elections when he was the Gujarat chief minister – with referrence to the 2002 Gujarat riots, which was alleged to be directed against Muslims.
Replying to a question on the Faridabad village outrage, Gen Singh said : "See, the thing is, never associate local incidents with the government (sarkar). There is an inquiry going on. There was a dispute between families…how did it turn out…where did the administration fail…only then the question of the government’s responsibility would arise."
Gen Singh then went on to say, "For everything…like if somebody throws a stone at a dog, whether the government is responsible…it is not like that.”
Early this week, a Dalit family was set on fire allegedly by upper caste people of their Sunped village in Faridabad, barely 35 km away from Delhi, while they were asleep in their home at night. Two infants – a 9-month-old baby girl Divya and a 2-yearold boy Vaibhav – were burnt to death and their mother Rekha,22,and father, Jitendra, 27, sustained serious burn injuries in this incident. Gen Singh&’s dog remark instantly set off a political storm, with the Opposition parties strongly condemning it, even as the former was criticised even by some BJP allies, such as the LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan, and members.
Describing Gen Singh&’s remark as “highly reprehensible and inhumane”, the Congress party&’s chief national spokesman Randeep Surjewala charged, “Gen Singh&’s statement reflects the all pervading anti-Dalit and anti-poor mindset of the Modi government…the BJP and its ministers have insulted the Dalit community as well as the entire nation”.
The Congress demanded that a criminal case be immediately lodged against Gen Singh.
“PM Modi must not only remove Gen Singh from the Union Council of Ministers but also tender an apology to the nation and the entire Dalit community,” Surjewala said.
Raking up the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat&’s earlier statement calling for a review of the reservation policy, Surjewala alleged: “An atmosphere against Dalits and backward classes is being created by BJP-RSS over last few months systematically. Why did PM Modi or the BJP president Amit Shah not condemn Bhagwat&’s statement till date?”
Gen Singh sought to control the damage, making it clear that his dog remark was taken out of context and that he did not mean to equate Dalits with dogs. But, in the process, he hit out at reporters once again, cursing them and saying that they should be sent to the Agra mental asylum for treatment.
The Union minister of state for external affairs, Gen Singh had earlier used the term “presstitutes” to describe certain press persons.
The BJP today, however, rose in defence of Gen Singh, with the party spokesman Sambit Patra saying that the minister has himself clarified his statement and maintained that he was misquoted.
“We should not blow the whole thing out of proportion,” Patra said.
The AAP condemned Gen Singh&’s dog remark, with its leader Ashutosh declaring that his party will lodge an FIR against him tomorrow.
The AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a series of tweets: “V K Singh&’s statement is shameful and prosecutable under SC/ST Act. A case should be registered against him immediately.”
He also urged PM Modi to sack Gen Singh from his ministry by this Dussehra evening.
The CPI-M Politburo member Brinda Karat said Gen Singh&’s remark betrayed “arrogance of casteism” and demanded his removal and registration of a criminal case against him. She raked up Modi&’s puppy remark in his earlier capacity as Gujarat CM. She also alleged Gen Singh was seeking to influence the investigation by a central agency (CBI) into the case by calling it a personal dispute.
Seeking to clarify his position, Gen Singh also took to Twitter, posting a series of tweets. “My statement wasn’t intended to draw an analogy. My men and I put our lives on the line for the nation irrespective of caste, creed and religion,” he said, adding that “We must stand united and let no one exploit our diversity by blowing up localised issues”.
The CPI leader D Raja alleged that Gen Singh&’s dog remark was not only “height of intolerance” but “a visible sign of how cultural fascism is emerging” in the country under the Modi regime.