NEW DELHI -- Javed Akhtar's farewell speech in Rajya Sabha had quite a few knocks and punches for the Modi government and the Opposition over India's fair share of problems, but his stern message was delivered with grace and good humor.
The celebrated poet made only one exception.
Akhtar blasted Asaduddin Owaisi, a Lok Sabha lawmaker from Hyderabad, who recently said that he won't say "Bharat mata ki jai" even Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, puts a knife to his throat.
Owaisi also said that the Constitution did not require him to say "Bharat mata ki jai."
Mocking Owaisi for describing himself as a "national leader," Akhtar said, "The constitution doesn’t tell him to wear a sherwani and a topi."
"Saying 'Bharat mata ki jai' is not my duty, it my right and I say Bharat Mata ki jai, Bharat Mata ki jai, Bharat Mata ki jai," Akhtar said. "I condemn his remark and his idea in the strongest possible manner."
Akhtar said that he also detested another slogan: Musalman ke do sthaan: kabristan ya Pakistan (Muslims have two places: cemetery or Pakistan).
Akhtar, a noted lyricist and scriptwriter of the Indian film industry, concluded his six years in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
In his 15-minute speech, he talked about how India's potential is being curtailed by its political leaders, who are preoccupied with furthering their political agenda instead of advancing the interests of the country.
"Just stop caring about the next election and everything can be achieved," he said.
The poet, who received the Padma Bhushan in 2007, urged the Modi government to reign the "growing fringe," which is a threat to minorities and free speech in India.
Akhtar said that India was at the crossroads, where it would have to decide whether it wants to become like those countries where people tongues and cut out and they are executed for speaking their mind, or whether it would follow the example of those countries where films such as The Last Temptation of Christ are made without fear.
In a democracy, Akhtar said, the majority and a minority point of view can never be permanent. "There can be no democracy without secularism," he said.
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