Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday denied the existence of “Hindu terrorism” in India.

In an interview to NewsX, Modi said, “In my culture and in my limited knowledge, no Hindu can ever be a terrorist and if he is a terrorist, he can never be a Hindu.” The prime minister’s statement came a day after actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan called Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse independent India’s first terrorist and pointed out that he was a Hindu.

The phrase “Hindu terror” has been among this election campaign’s major topics. The Bharatiya Janata Party has accused the Congress of insulting Hindus by using the term “Hindu terror”.

“The Congress has hatched the ‘Hindu atankwad’ [terrorism] conspiracy to defame our religious heritage,” Modi had said at an election rally in Madhya Pradesh on May 12. “No matter how many ‘janeu’ [sacred thread] they will show, the Congress and its ‘mahamilavat’ [adulterated] allies will never escape from the sin of putting blot of terrorism on the saffron colour of Hindu religion.”

Several BJP leaders have also targetted the Congress for allegedly coining the term “Hindu terror”.

In November 2017, Haasan had faced flak for his comments on “Hindu terrorism”. He had accused the Hindu right wing of using violence and alleged that terrorism had now spread to their camp. “Earlier, the Hindu right would not indulge in violence, but instead had debates,” Haasan had written in Tamil magazine Vikatan. “But once this tactic failed, they started using muscle power instead of dialogue. They too have started using violence. They can no longer say ‘Can you show me a Hindu Terrorist’.”

West Bengal

Referring to clashes that had broken out during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday, Modi claimed he had warned a year ago, during panchayat elections in West Bengal, that there will be more violence during the Lok Sabha elections. All six phases of the elections in West Bengal so far has seen violence.

“Nobody reacted to these until they themselves faced the attack from the goons of the ruling Trinamool Congress,” Modi told the news channel. He accused the media of not giving adequate coverage to the earlier clashes.

Attacking the Opposition, he said, “Four months ago they did not give permission for helicopter landing and we gave immediate assistance during cyclone Fani. The polls are a fight between West Bengal government and the people.”