On August 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the upcoming Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. While people across the country and beyond had rejoiced as the long awaited bhoomi pujan took place, others had questioned the Prime Minister's presence there.
“The Prime Minister should tell the country if he is attending in individual capacity or as the Prime Minister. If he is going as the Prime Minister, it violates the cause of secularism, which is the basic structure of the Constitution,” Asaduddin Owaisi had said, while speaking to the Free Press Journal ahead of the event.
Now, a video from an interview between Owaisi and India Today's Rajdeep Sardesai has come back under the spotlight. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Chief can be heard stating that the government should not spend public money on any religion.
This is followed by the journalist querying whether Owasi would comment on the blending of religion and politics in other countries such Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
"Am I a Saudi citizen? Am I an Iranian citizen? What makes you ask this question? I take strong exception to Mr Rajdeep Sardesai asking this question," Owaisi retorted. He opined that it was because he was a Muslim that such a question had been asked in the first place.
Since being posted to Twitter, the video clip has sparked a debate of sorts.
"An Indian Muslim should wake up every morning and start apologising for every criminal act in the world in every Islamic country. That is a privilege accorded to Muslims in India if they must question fundamentalism in their own country," commented Rana Ayyub.
"Give me just one reason why Indian Muslims be made answerable for what Saudi or Pakistan do? Is Indian secularism defined by how other nations treat their citizens? As citizens of India, Muslims want justice and equality as promised to them in d constitution Nothing less, nothing more," commented The Wire's Arfa Khanum Sherwani.
And to be fair, Sardesai has attempted to clarify on the topic, condeding that the questions were "poorly framed". When one suggested that the journalist had taken a stance based on his channel's political and ideological position, he was quick to clear the air.
"Nothing ‘right’ or ‘ left’ here. I concede questions was poorly framed and Asaduddin Owaisi has no reason to be held accountable in any way for what happens in a Saudi/Iran, but he is every bit accountable if his party plays minority politics: We must reject majoritarianism and minorityism," he tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet he added that by "minorityism" he had meant "minority communalism/fundamentalism as opposed to minority rights/freedoms".