Uttar Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party MP Savitri Bai Phule has called Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah a “great man”. She said a controversy over Jinnah’s portrait at Aligarh Muslim University was meant to divert attention from real problems such as Dalits’ rights, PTI reported.

“All the ‘mahapurush’ [great people] who had contributed to the freedom struggle, irrespective of their caste or community, need to be respected,” Phule told reporters in Bahraich on Thursday, when she was asked to comment on the controversy.

“He [Jinnah] was, is, and will always remain a great person,” she said.

Phule has made statements critical of her party’s government multiple times in the recent past.

“The portrait of such a ‘mahapurush’, wherever it is required, should be installed with respect,” she said. “Jinnah is respected since the times of freedom struggle. His portrait is installed in the Lok Sabha...His name should be taken with respect.”

Students at Aligarh Muslim University have sought police action against Hindutva activists who barged into the campus on May 2 and allegedly beat them for refusing to take down Jinnah’s portrait.