Former BJP MP Tarun Vijay on Friday found himself in trouble by saying Indians could not be racist because ''we lived with 'black people' who were 'around us',” referring to people from South India.
Hours later, he apologised for his remarks on Twitter and termed his words a "badly framed sentence."
“If we were racist, why would the entire South — you know the Tamils, you know Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra — why do we live with them? We have blacks, black people around us. You are denying your own nation, denying your ancestry, your history and you're denying your culture,” Mr. Vijay went on to say during a discussion in Al Jazeera television.
He was responding to questions about the recent attacks on African students in Greater Noida.
Mr. Vijay, head of the India-African Parliamentary Friendship Group, blamed the attackers as “mindless, criminalised people” and said such “criminalised behaviour doesn’t need any logic.”
Denying racisim in India, Mr. Vijay said Indians could not be called racist because "a black god." is worshipped “To say that Indians can be racist is the most vicious thing because we worship a black god. Krishna is black. And we have been seeing the black descendants of African ancestors living amicably in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Such attacks are attacks by mindless, criminalised people,” he said.
His comments on South Indians immediately caused a furore on social media platforms, with several tweeting with the hashtag #ThankYouTarunVijay.
Mr. Vijay responded to the criticism, saying that "he never said what is being interpreted." Defending what he said in the interview, Mr. Vijay observed that Indians themselves had fought racism and they were the first to support black rights, “We gave Gandhi to Africa and the Africans turned him into Mahatma and gave him back to us. So we have great affinity and respect for each other,” he said on Twitter.
Recalling his efforts to install Tamil saint-poet Thiruvallur's statue in Hardwar, Mr. Vijay wrote, "I can die but how can I ridicule my own culture, my own people and my own nation? Think before you misinterpret my badly framed sentence. Yes [sic]"