BY ANITA MENDONCA | MALWANI | 3 JULY 2018: Indian Christians and particularly the local Catholic community in Mumbai are up in arms against a BJP MP from the Mumbai North constituency Gopal Shetty who stated in a speech that since Christians are descendants of the British, they did not contribute to the Freedom struggle and instead sided with the British government during the fight for Indian Independence.
Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh condemned (Read Here) the BJP MP’s statements, saying the MP is not aware of history, or is purposely trying to create discord among members of one community with such communally sensitive utterances.
Shetty who is the elected MP from the area, was speaking at an event held at Malwani, in Malad – a northern suburb of Mumbai. The Eid Milan function was organised on Sunday by the local Shia Kabrastan Committee and was attended by local BJP workers including a prominent Muslim leader Haji Hyder Azam and several others. The Shia community has been demanding a burial ground in the vicinity for quite some time.
Since it was a local Muslim event, in an area (Malwani) which has been traditionally a Congress stronghold, with Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh having a very strong grip over the area, which consists of a majority of Muslims, Shetty went into overdrive to woo the Muslim community. But he forgot one important aspect – the Catholic community consisting of the original inhabitants or sons of the soil or East Indians are equally prominent in Malad and Malwani (Orlem, Aksa, Madh and Gorai) and Catholic activists were up in arms within hours, with Gopal Shetty’s speech video going viral on social media within a few hours.
We tried to contact MP Gopal Shetty for comment, but his office refused to connect us, stating that Shetty was very busy in meetings and unavailable to speak to the media.
The Watchdog Foundation – a forum agitating for the rights of the local Christian (and Catholic) community has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard.
This is not the first time, Shetty has been caught with his foot in his mouth. On two more occasions, he ended up shooting from the hip, leading to a local uproar in the area.
Around Feb 2018, Gopal Shetty was in the firing line when his ‘fashion to commit suicide‘ quote, concerning ‘farmers’ suicides went viral across the nation. Shetty had said, “All farmer suicides are not only because of hunger and unemployment. There is a fashion, a trend is on. If Maharashtra government is giving Rs 5 lakh, another government is giving Rs 7 lakh, Rs 8 lakh. There is a competition going on to give money to farmers,” he said at an event at Borivli.
Shetty’s remarks came at a time when the BJP-ruled Maharashtra was reeling under an agrarian crisis with 124 farmers committing suicide in the state and caused a major embarrassment to CM Devendra Fadnavis’ government.
However, defending himself , Shetty later said, “I wanted to say that there is a fashion of giving compensation to farmers committing suicide,” adding, “Instead of using word competition I said fashion.” He later apologised for his statement, asserting that he was misquoted.
On, Wednesday evening, Shetty issued a clarification (Read Here) stating that he was misquoted by the media and he didn’t intend to offend any community. His quotes were reported out of context, he said. However, in a video clip doing the rounds on Facebook, Shetty is clearly heard saying that the Christian community did not contribute to the Freedom struggle in India.
The media statement issued by Shetty sounds hollow and there is no tone of an apology, a prominent Catholic social worker from Malad opined.