Assam Governor P B Acharya stoked a controversy with his reported "Hindustan is for Hindus" remark and his attempt to clarify today with a comment that Indian Muslims are "free to go Pakistan" escalated the row, sparking a demand for his removal by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
Gogoi alleged that Acharya was working more as an "RSS Pracharak" than a constitutional head of the state even as his party Congress condemned the remarks, alleging it was reflective of the divisive ideology of RSS and BJP which has led to incidents like Dadri lynching.
Acharya, who is the Governor of Nagaland, is holding additional charge in Assam.
Acharya's bid to clarify the alleged remarks he made yesterday at a book launch function further stirred the row after he said that, "Muslims in India are free to go anywhere …If they want to go to Pakistan, Bangladesh, they are free to go".
"Hindustan is for Hindus. There is nothing wrong with that. Hindus from different countries can stay here. They cannot be outsiders," the Governor was quoted as saying by the media.
As his reported remarks came under fire, Acharaya today said that what he meant was that all Indian-origin people, including Muslims, persecuted in any foreign lands were welcome in the country.
"We should keep in our mind, only because a person is persecuted because of his religion in any country, if Indian Christian is persecuted in Pakistan, he has to come to India. Where else will he go? Indian Christian, Indian Buddhist, Indian Jain, Indian Hindu.
"If a European Christian is persecuted or an European Hindu…If he is persecuted in Belgium, he cannot come to India…
"Indian Muslims are free to go anywhere. They can stay here if they want to stay here, many have gone to Pakistan. If they want to go to Pakistan, Bangladesh, they are free to go. If they are persecuted there, Taslima Nasreen (author) was persecuted there, she came here.
If they come we'll give them shelter. India is big-hearted," he said.
In a statement, Gogoi demanded that the Centre appoint a 'permanent' governor for the state by replacing Acharya who is holding additional charge, saying he "demeaned" the post.
"To keep the unity of the state intact and to continue the development, a person with a broad mind should be appointed as the governor of the state," he said.
He observed that Acharya had broken his oath taken as the constitutional head of the state and demeaned the post with his remarks.
"If Acharya is allowed to continue as Assam Governor, then he will work for BJP as an RSS Pracharak during the Assembly polls due next year," he said.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi termed Acharya's remarks as "unfortunate and shocking" as they came from a person holding a "constitutional post".
"It is clearly indicative of the way RSS and BJP functionaries think and continue to think even when they are in a constitutional post.
Bondage or umbilical cords with parent remote organisations, be it RSS and BJP should be severed when you assume a Constitutional post," he said.
Singhvi said the same ideology and philosophy has led to a culture of absolute divisiveness, intolerance, mutual enmity, trust deficit in the last 18 months and incidents like Dadri.
"You have been hearing from MPs, MLAs, ministers and now from Governor," he said.