Wondering how long attacks on the forces will go on in Kashmir, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday demanded that India be proclaimed a 'Hindu state'.
"We have to decide now… enough of this 'secular' stuff. The only option left is to declare India a 'Hindu Rashtra' if attacks on Hindus have to be prevented," Thackeray said in his annual birthday eve interview.
The first of the three-part interview was published on Sunday in the party mouthpieces Saamana (Marathi) and Dopaharka Saamana (Hindi) ahead of his 56th birthday on July 27.
Thackeray was speaking to the dailies' Executive Editor and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut.
The Sena chief said: "If speaking about Hindutva is a crime, at least shed the false pretensions of secularism — as the country is now stuck between the two (Hindutva and secularism).
"When Hindus are being targeted and attacked, where are these secularists? What about the Sanatan Sanstha, which is being crushed like a snake? We don't support them, but let the truth about the Sanatan Sanstha come out once and for all. Merely talking and labelling them will not serve the cause of justice," Thackeray said.
Persons linked to the Sanstha have been accused of involvement in the murder of rationalist and author Narendra Achyut Dabholkar in 2013 and left-wing author Govind Pansare in 2015.
He agreed with Raut that attempts are being to decimate Hindutva groups in the country, which he termed "strange".
"The Hindus are in a majority, yet they are subjected to atrocities. They elected this government with the hope and confidence of improving their lot, but the same old story as before (Congress rule) continues," Thackeray said.
Dwelling on a variety of issues, Thackeray said people were at a loss and don't understand what is going on in the country.
"Why is Jammu and Kashmir suddenly up in flames? Who's responsible for this? Hindus were targeted by the Kashmiri youth on the warpath. The Amarnath Yatra was stopped, soldiers and police have been attacked without any fear and they (separatists) raise anti-India slogans. For how long will this go on," Thackeray wondered.
The Sena leader compared the current situation in the country, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, as "foggy" — which he said was a matter of utmost concern for his party.
"Right from the times of (Shiv Sena founder) Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sena has espoused the cause of Hindutva, and fought for the country. Whenever Hindutva was under threat, he (Bal Thackeray) immediately intervened to offer hope to the beleaguered Hindus — but the others simply mouth 'Hindutva' and enjoy the fruits of power," he said.
As for Pakistan, Thackeray claimed that "only the Shiv Sena is giving them a tough challenge, opposing their artistes, actors and cricketers".
"But only the Shiv Sena has suffered — what are the Hindus in other parties doing? They seem to be listening to ghazals and watching cricket matches. It's high time all Hindus unite for the country," Thackeray said.
To a query on Islamic State's increasing influence in India, he said the government must get to the root of the problem and ferret out those behind the menace, those acting as inspiration for others.
The Sena leader said: "We don't want a situation in India similar to some Muslim countries in the name of religion."
Thackeray lamented that the government at the Centre had changed but it has not benefited the common people, whose fate remains "foggy, uncertain and bleak", as was the case under the previous Congress-led government.
"But don't think people are relaxed or have resigned to their fate. Last time, they uprooted the Congress from power. Even in the recent elections in several states, the ruling party at the Centre (BJP) lost miserably," Thackeray said in a veiled warning to its ally.