Senior Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Lalu Prasad confidant Abdul Bari Siddiqui has revealed he suggested to his children that they settle down abroad since the “atmosphere” in India is not conducive, triggering a debate that he says he wished to set off.
“You can understand with how much pain a man tells his children to leave their motherland. But such a time has come,” Siddiqui is heard saying in a video clip. On Friday Siddiqui, 69, a former Bihar finance minister whose wife and son-in-law are Hindus, told The Telegraph: “If I have touched a raw nerve, I have succeeded. There should be a debate.”
He had made the original comments at an event organised by the Bihar Legislative Council last week. Videos of his remarks began circulating on social media on Friday. “I have a son and a daughter. My son studies at Harvard University; my daughter passed out from the London School of Economics,” Siddiqui is heard saying in Hindi.
“Toh jo desh ka mahaul hai — aap kahiyega ki aap toh khud hi yahan — toh humne kaha apne beta-beti ko, ki naukri kar lo udhar hi, agar citizenship bhi miley to le lena, ab India mein mahaul nahi reh gaya hai, tum log jhel paoge ya nahi jhel paoge (The atmosphere in the country is such that — you may point out that I myself continue to live here — I told my children to take up jobs there, if possible, and citizenship too. I told them the atmosphere is not there in India... I don’t know whether you would be able to endure it).”
Siddiqui then speaks of the pain of parents in asking their children to leave their motherland.
Asked by this newspaper about his children’s reaction to his advice, Siddiqui laughed and said: “He (his son) pulled me up and said he was an adult and was capable of deciding where to live or work.”
On Friday, leaders of Bihar’s ruling Grand Alliance defended Siddiqui while the BJP asked him to go to Pakistan.
“I have triggered a debate. Why will people go to other countries to work if there is a good atmosphere and employment opportunities here?” Siddiqui told this newspaper.
He said a sincere debate on the subject should include references to “the Preamble to the Constitution, what the Constitution says, what the dreams of our fathers and grandfathers who died fighting for Independence were, and how some people are using the country of their dreams for their own wrongful political purposes”.
Siddiqui, who has always been well-liked across the political spectrum, is now chairman of the state public accounts committee and vice-president of the Badminton Association of India.
State BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said: “People like Siddiqui promote anti-national and religious agendas while wearing the mask of a secular-liberal person. The RJD appeases minorities. People like him who have no faith in the country and its Constitution are anti-nationals. He should go to Pakistan with his family.”
RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari hit back, saying: “BJP leaders are sending him to Pakistan. This is the height of shamelessness. Siddiqui has just expressed the feelings of the minority community. His wife is a practising Hindu. His family celebrates Hindu festivals.”
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United provided moral support to Siddiqui while suggesting he should not have made the remarks.
“We will not let anybody feel afraid or allow anybody to make others feel afraid and create an environment of fear,” JDU leader and social welfare minister Madan Sahni told reporters. “We understand what Siddiqui indicated.... However, senior leaders like him should refrain from making such comments.”