The Congress party is facing serious flak for Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla's reported remarks about he being a victim of racism himself in India, during a conference in Singapore on June 25.
Addressing a networking session on the 'business of water in India', Thanhawla touched upon the issue of identity crisis among Indians with regard to northeastern states and said: "Even after landing here, many people ask me: 'You do not look like an Indian!' Even in my own country, wherever I go to, Delhi or down south, while I say 'I am from Mizoram,' (I am asked) where is Mizoram? I tell them that this is in their own country. And, I ask many people, who claim themselves to be national leaders: 'Why do you not accept that our great country is populated by at least three major races of the world?'"
The chief minister's remarks have evoked strong reactions from the Opposition. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has demanded that the Centre come clean on Thanhawla's statement.
"It is a very serious issue that the man who holds constitutional position should make a statement like this on an international forum when we are battling with same matter with the Australians where a number of attacks have taken place on Indian students. We want that the Government of India and the Congress party to come clean and explain the circumstance under which he made the controversial statement," Naqvi told rediff.com on Saturday.
The Congress, meanwhile, was quick to go on damage-control mode.
Major Ved Prakash, party in charge for Northeast, claimed that Thanhawla statement had been misinterpreted.
"The chief minister has issued a denial already. The BJP is just trying to make an issue out of it. Perhaps he could not say what he wanted to convey in appropriate terms. How can you question the credentials of the man who gave up his post to become deputy chief minister to usher in an era of peace when the Rajiv Gandhi-Laldenga accord was struck? He has held various positions in the party, including that of state party president, when we were not in power," Ved Prakash said, building strong defence for the beleaguered Mizoram chief minister.
A day after his comments kicked up a storm, Thanhawla sought to clarify his position, stating: 'What I stated was that India is a multiracial country and that there could occasionally be some misunderstanding based on physical features of individuals from particular region or regions of the country. I did not even distantly suggest or hint that the people of India are racist and that I was victim of racism.'