New Delhi: Trashing opposition charge of lack of freedom of speech under the Modi government, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Monday said there was so much liberty in the country that even the Prime Minister could be compared to a donkey.
"You have such freedom of expression in the country that you can call the Prime Minister by name, you write articles - if the Prime Minister dies tomorrow, X will be the Prime Minister. You compare him with a donkey.... and now you say there is no freedom of expression," Naidu told a press conference.
Naidu, however, insisted the government did not favour the idea of freedom of expression to mean liberty to advocate disintegration of the country. He also accused Congress and the Left of trying to give a "different colour" to happenings on some campuses.
"I am surprised about the efforts made by the Congress and the Left to give a different colour to the issues that are happening in a few universities saying it is an assault on freedom of expression," Naidu told reporters. He claimed certain "misguided" sections were trying to mislead the young population and create social tensions, and hurt the sentiments of the people of India.
"Where is the question of not having the freedom of expression? It is guaranteed under the Constitution," Naidu said. He said there were also certain "reasonable restrictions" on freedom of expression in place.
"You cannot hurt others' religious feeling, you cannot question the nation's unity and integrity. You cannot advocate separatism. Dissent, having a different opinion apart from the majority opinion is agreeable but not disintegration. Nobody can advocate disintegration. What is azaadi? What is azaadi of Kashmir?" Naidu said.
His comments came in the backdrop of a political slugfest following last week's clashes between activists of RSS-affiliated ABVP and Left-backed AISA over a seminar invite to JNU student Umar Khalid, an accused in a sedition case.
The ABVP, Naidu said, was a "nationalistic organisation", adding those who have different views can also express their them but asked "why should outsiders go and disturb the peace of campuses."
"How can anybody advocate azaadi for Jammu and Kashmir?" the senior minister asked noting the Parliament had passed a resolution that the whole of J&K, including PoK, was part of India.
"You want to make universities laboratories for separatist experiments? There is a systematic effort going on - you want to have anniversary for Afzal Guru, who was responsible (for) and spearheaded the attack on Parliament, the temple of democracy. And then you appeal to others that freedom of expression is affected," he said.
Attacking the Congress, Naidu said the people who had imposed Emergency, put restrictions on fundamental rights, people who put entire opposition behind bars and imposed censorship on the media are now giving sermons on freedom of expression.
"The Congress imposed Emergency while the Left supported the black deeds of Emergency," he said.
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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2017 21:51:25 IST