Would Order Police to Shoot Intellectuals If I Were Home Minister: BJP MLA

Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, also a former Union minister, has been known to make inflammatory speeches.

New Delhi: Less than a day after Rajasthan BJP president Madan Lal Saini came under fire for distorting historical facts, a BJP MLA from Karnataka has landed himself in the middle of yet another controversy by making inflammatory remarks against intellectuals. As per a report by News18, Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, the legislator in question, remarked in Vijayapura (his assembly constituency) that if he were the home minister, he would have ordered the police to shoot all ‘intellectuals’.

Yatnal was addressing a ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’ function when he made the remark, terming liberals and intellectuals ‘anti-nationals’.

“These people [intellectuals] live in this country and use all the facilities for which we pay tax. Then they raise slogans against the Indian Army. Our country faces grave danger from intellectuals and seculars than anyone else,” the report quoted him as saying.

An ANI report pointed out that the former union minister had courted controversy in June by telling local party municipal members not to help Muslims.

As per the News18 report, he also blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for the conflict in Kashmir, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would do away with Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir state.

The ruling JD(S) and Congress have asked the BJP to take stern action against Basanagouda Patil Yatnal. A report in India Today quoted Dinesh Gundu Rao, president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee as saying, “This is a reflection of the BJPs mindset. This is actually what they believe in and what they think that to achieve their goals any amount of deaths and violence is a given and they will use any method to propagate their ideology.”

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS coming under fire for their controversial remarks seems to be becoming a regular affair. Last week, just after the Alwar lynching, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Indresh Kumar said that mob lynchings would stop if people stopped eating beef.

Sections of academics point out that the BJP and the RSS’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad have been targeting intellectuals who hold opinions contrary to their own, since the Narendra Modi government’s ascendancy to power n 2014.  They feel that the Sangh is going all out to target Left-leaning and Dalit intellectuals. Many argue that the most glaring manifestations of this trend can be seen in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Ayesha Kidwai, professor at JNU, said, “I guess we have to congratulate ourselves that Mr. Yatnal is not the Home Minister (yet!). But what is this nationalism that associates the nation with only death, that bays for the blood of its citizens. As everyone knows, many intellectuals – Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, Lankesh – have already perished at the hands of forces that people like Yatnal support, as have many children and young people who didn’t have the opportunity to become people who will challenge these retrograde bigoted opinions. The fact is that ideas of freedom and tolerance can never die. Perhaps this truth has finally come home to him?”

In 2016, Gyandev Ahuja, BJP MLA from Ramgarh in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, alleged that those studying in JNU were indulging in “illicit” activities. He alleged that the university is a “hub of sex and drugs where over 3,000 used condoms and 2,000 liquor bottles are found everyday.”

Dattatreya Hosbale, joint general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 2016 said, “All universities must be purged of all kinds of anti-national elements.”

In the same year, BJP and ABVP had accused the Pondicherry University Student Council magazine Wider Stand of carrying ‘anti-national’ content.