03/11/2015 2:20 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Arun Jaitley Denies That There Is Growing Intolerance In India

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Arun Jaitley, India's finance minister, speaks during an interview at his office in the North Block of the Central Secretariat building in New Delhi, India, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. Jaitley is open to meeting top opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, to resolve a parliamentary deadlock over sales tax reforms. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NEW DELHI — Union minister Arun Jaitley, who holds the profile for the finance ministry as well as the information & broadcasting ministry, denied that there was growing intolerance in the country. Even as dozens of writers, historians, filmmakers and scientists returned their national awards as a mark of protest against intolerance, the cabinet minister on Tuesday dismissed the allegations.

"Where is intolerance? The national situation is absolutely peaceful....Political opponents must fight battles politically. To create an issue and link it to the central government is not fair. The country is not intolerant," he said during a press conference for the international film festival IFFI 2015.

His comments came hours before the Congress party is set to march to the President's House to protest against instances of alleged intolerance, including the recent backlash against eating beef in India. Though Jaitley acknowledged that several recent incidents should not have happened, but alleged they were only taking place in states ruled by Congress and other parties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had said yesterday that Congress should not "give a lecture about intolerance", alluding to the 1984 Sikh riots that had taken place under Congress rule. "Doob maro (drown in shame)... Try to remember that day in 1984 when Sikhs were being massacred in Delhi and all over India two-three days after Indira Gandhi was killed. There were serious charges against the Congress party and Congress leaders," Modi said yesterday.

Over the past few weeks, a Muslim man has been lynched under allegations of slaughtering and consuming cow meat, Shiv Sena activists have thrown ink on a man for organising a book launch for a Pakistani author, a state government canteen in New Delhi has been put under police scrutiny for serving "beef", and a concert by a famous Pakistani singer has been cancelled due to right-wing threats. Students of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) recently concluded their longest protest ever, alleging 'political appointments' were being made for the institute's board. They returned to classes last week but announced that they would continue their agitation, and threatened to protest at the IFFI festival as well.

"I don't see any reason to try and disturb an international event in India. This is not good practise or good precedence," responded jaitley to these threats.

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