Union minister Anantkumar Hegde stoked a new controversy on Sunday by saying that anyone who harasses a Hindu woman must be severely punished.

“We have to rethink about priorities of our society,” Hegde said at a public event in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, ANI reported. The Bharatiya Janata Party MP claimed things should be viewed in totality and not on the lines of caste. But, he added, “if a Hindu girl is touched by a hand, then that hand should not exist”. The event was organised by the Hindu Jagrana Vedike at Madapura in Somwarpet taluk.

Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao criticised Hegde for the comment, according to the Hindustan Times. “What kind of language is this? A Union minister is openly calling for vigilantism,” Rao said. “No matter which community, if a woman is harassed then the law must be invoked.”

“Nothing is being said about what has been achieved by his ministry. It is very clear that this is the language they will use for the Lok Sabha polls, but the people of the country are seeing through it,” Rao added.

Distorting history

Hegde also claimed at the meeting that the Taj Mahal and Qutb Minar were not built by Muslims, according to the Hindustan Times.

The Taj Mahal is a “big construction that Shah Jahan built for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal” but it was “definitely not” built by Muslims, Hegde claimed. “History says that, even Shah Jahan in his autobiography has said that he bought the palace from Raja Jaisimha, and that it was a temple constructed by Raja Paramardi Deva, Tejo Mahalaya, which became Taj Mahal,” he alleged.

Similar, the Qutub Minar was not built by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, Hegde said. “If you go to that compound, you will see a board by the Archaeological Survey of India, not the Hindu Jagarana Vedike, Vishwa Hindu Parishad or RSS,” he said. “It is clearly written on that board that it was a complex of temples dedicated to 24 stars, of Jain temples, and this was destroyed by Muslim invaders. But governments over the past 70 years had said that Qutub Minar was built by Aibak. Lies, lies, lies, lies. They tried to destroy the identity of our community over these many years.”

If Hindus continued to sleep, then their houses would soon be called “manzil” (a house of rest), the Union minister of state for skill development claimed. “If this continues in the coming days, Lord Ram will become Jahanpanah and Sita will become bibi.”

Hegde has landed in several controversies for making such statements before. On January 2, he had said that the Kerala government’s handling of the Sabarimala row was “daylight rape” of Hindus. In the past, he has compared some Dalit protestors with dogs, claimed Islam must be wiped out to bring peace, said the Church is a conversion machine, that the Constitution must be changed, and that secular Indians do not have their own identity and do not know about their parentage.