New Delhi, Apr 16 : Home Minister Shivraj Patil today expressed that national pride was above all feelings while refusing to be drawn into the son-of-the-soil debate.
In the Rajya Sabha, during a supplementary on the "anti-migrant drive" in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena MP Manohar Joshi, sought to know from Patil if he was proud be a Maharashtrian. In response, Patil said: "I am proud to be an Indian and I think Maharashtra is in India. aharashtra is part of India and I am not going to separate Maharashtra from India." Joshi's remarks on regional pride and that jobs should go to local people drew sharp criticism from the Left parties and the Third Front constituents Samajwadi Party (SP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
It may be recalled that Maharashtra had recently seen violence against migrant north-Indians instigated by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists. Patil said as per information available from the state government no anti-migrant drive has again been started by the MNS against the workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Patil said: "It is not correct to state that all Maharashtrians are against migrants. There were only a handful people on the road (against the migrants)... Majority accept people from outside the state."
"Strict action should be taken against people indulging in anti-migrant violence but the Centre cannot dictate to the state government under what sections of the Indian Penal Code action should be taken," he aded.
He further said politicians should not make statements that create rift between people on caste, creed, religion or regional lines. "We should be careful that our utterances do not create a divide."
Patil said 336 offences were registered and 1575 persons were arrested for substantive offences in addition to preventive action against 5159 persons following the February incidents, adding that the state government has given ex-gratia assistance in 21 cases.
Patil's statement that there was "no anti-migrant drive" in Maharashtra was strongly objected to by SP member Jaya Bachchan, who wanted to raise a question but Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari ruled that only three supplementaries would be allowed during the Question Hour. Not satisfied, Bachchan and other SP members staged a walkout of the House.