IndiaScoops.com Bureau | Mumbai, Jul 6: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Gopal Shetty who is known for his controversial remarks in the past, tendered his resignation on Friday after he stirred a controversy calling Christians ‘angrez’ who have not contributed to the freedom struggle. The incident occurred on Sunday July 1 at Malwani in suburban Mumbai.
The MP from Mumbai North Gopal Shetty is heard saying in a video clip, which has gone viral: “Christians were British; hence they didn’t participate in the freedom movement. India was not freed by Hindus or Muslims, we fought as one, as Hindustanis for our independence.”
Shetty defended his statements, and at first said he was misinterpreted. On Tuesday and Wednesday, as the news broke out in the local media, Shetty initially tried to say he was misquoted and misrepresented and his comments were twisted or reported out of context. Possibly Shetty and his advisers did not themselves understand or realize the meaning and magnitude of his statements. Or it was a subtle and clever trick, with Shetty trying to appease one community in the sensitive Malwani area.
But as his recorded speech video clip went viral nationally on Friday and mainline Tv news channels began playing the video clip, Shetty did a U-turn. His party bosses did not bat for him and a dejected Shetty came to understand what he said and what was being interrupted. He then claimed he had not said something that required him to apologize. He told media that the fact is that people from every religion contributed for Indian freedom. However, he expressed unhappiness that his party did not stand by him.
Amidst rising national outrage, Shetty said he stood by his comments. “I just said Catholics may not be in freedom struggle because it was the British rule.” “I have my freedom of expression and this statement can be debated if needed. I have offered my resignation from MP post to Maharashtra BJP president and now it is up to the party. I do not want to embarrass my party,” added Shetty.
Catholics in Mumbai who have a sizable presence in various sectors in the city, including Education, IT services, Banking & Finance and Media have not taken kindly to Shetty’s utterances. “We are Indians first and foremost. Shetty called us ‘Angrez’ or British in a derogatory way. He said since we were British, we did not participate in the Freedom Struggle. Doesn’t he understand what he was saying. Either he is playing dumb or trying to be very clever. All he had to do is say sorry, but he has refused to apologize. In spite of a national uproar and condemnation from his own party colleagues, he has added fuel to fire, by stating that the Christian contribution to the Freedom Struggle is a debatable topic. We are clear about our demands -we want an unconditional apology, or else we will take this matter to it’s legal conclusion. Shetty as an MP is expected to be a very responsible man. His constituency which comprises of Malad, Orlem, Borivili, Poisar, etc., has a sizable well-educated Christian population and the community’s contribution to the education sector is clearly evident by the several Church and convent schools in Shetty’s constituency,” said Gerard Lobo, who first submitted a written complaint to the Malwani Police Station.
Shetty had made the controversial statement while addressing a gathering during the Eid-E-Milad program organised by the Shia Kabrastan Committee at Malvani in Malad in Mumbai on Sunday, July 1.
The Mumbai Congress hit back at the MP on Wednesday. “It’s clear BJP MP is not aware of history, or is purposely trying to create discord among members of one community with such communally sensitive utterances,” the Mumbai Congress tweeted.
The Telangana Congress also took a dig at the BJP. “Official written orders were passed by the heads of RSS & Hindu Mahasabha asking their cadre not to participate in Indian Freedom Struggle & this is “BJP” History !!” the INC Telangana tweeted.
Mumbai BJP President and MLA from Bandra West Ashish Shelar told media that BJP does not support such statements and supports the Christian community. “Though the MP did not mean what he said, he has been asked to withdraw the statement,” Shelar added.
Two years ago, Shetty had stirred trouble for his party by describing farmer suicides as a “fashion”.