Karnataka Tourism Minister C T Ravi should immediately apologise failing which he should be dropped from the cabinet for his provocative and intimidating warning of a post-Godhra like situation in the state, in the light of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) agitation. It is highly unbecoming of a person holding a constitutional post to issue such reprehensible threats when the situation is already volatile. Responding to Congress leader U T Khader’s statement that Karnataka would burn if CAA was implemented, Ravi said, “It is such mentality that led to the burning of a train in Godhra. You perhaps are aware of the after-effects. Do not mistake our patience for weakness. We are watching you setting fire to public property. If you want to visualise what will happen if the majority loses its patience, look back at Godhra.” The burning of a train in Godhra in 2002 was the trigger for the Gujarat riots which left over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured, though the unofficial figures are much higher. While Khader’s remarks are totally out of place, Ravi being a minister, had no right to stoke the communal fire.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has now advised his ministers to watch their words, but that is not enough. He should show he means business by axing Ravi who is not only spreading hate among the people, but is also creating a sense of insecurity in the minds of the minorities. Far from being apologetic, Ravi has adopted a belligerent stand on a micro-blogging site, using words like “my foot” and “get a life” etc, against his critics. The minister who says, “I am responsible for my words, not what peddlers of lies imagine them to be,” has even challenged Opposition Leader Siddaramaiah to shed his “cowardice” and “join me for a debate”. Ravi’s stand makes it clear that his Godhra comment was not a spur-of-the-moment reaction but a well thought out statement which perhaps has the blessings of his seniors in the party. Ironically, the police who have been issuing warnings to the general public that their social media activity is being closely monitored, have so far failed to book the minister though his statement has the potential to create communal disharmony and further vitiate the atmosphere.
People holding public offices, especially elected representatives, should act with utmost responsibility as they are followed by lakhs of people, who may take their every word seriously and even implement them. Karnataka has been largely peaceful and ministers like Ravi should lead by example instead of driving a wedge between the people of different communities.