New Delhi, Feb 26: Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu has flayed US Ambassador Richard Verma's remarks advocating "free speech" in universities and colleges in the backdrop of the JNU row asking if they would allow Osama Bin Laden's martyrdom anniversary on US soil.
"Can they hold Osama bin Laden martyrdom anniversary in any university in America?... Let America say, ‘Osama, we are ashamed your killers roam free; USA shall be divided into pieces', Allah willing, Insha Allah. If somebody says like that, is America going to tolerate this?," the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister said in the Parliament.
"They may be a great nation with all the resources at their command. But at the same time, we Indians also have our self-pride. We are also concerned about the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of our country," he added further.
When asked about India's position on Verma's recent remarks, made twice in as many days, that diversity of "thought and speech" was one of India's great hallmarks which will "propel" it forward.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, "Where is the doubt that we do not have diversity on our campuses or the free thought in India is curtailed in any way. Very vigorous debate that we have seen in Parliament itself is an example of diversity of thought and opinion in India."
When asked about JNU row Richard Verma had said, "It will be hard to find a country more diverse than India. That is a great attribute of this country. It is what will propel India forward in the next century.
That's also a part of both of our democracies, particularly on college campuses and it is something both of our countries frankly have celebrated and welcomed over years and over decades and these are called the laboratories of thoughts."
"Ultimately this is a question for Indian society to resolve. It is one of the great hallmarks of India and US to have this diversity of thought and diversity of speech and the fact is we are constitutional democracies, where speech is a central tenet of what we hold dear."
(With inputs from agencies)