NEW DELHI: Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said today his "saffron terror" remark last month was made by mistake, even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pleaded with opposition parties to allow Parliament to function during the Budget Session that begins tomorrow.
"Since a controversy has been created on account of my statement, I am issuing this clarification and express regret to those who felt hurt by my statement," Shinde said.
The minister said his statement in Jaipur last month has created a misunderstanding.
"It has been understood to mean that I was linking terrorism to a particular religion and was accusing certain political organizations of being involved in organizing terror camps. I had no intention of linking terrorism with any religion. There is no basis for suggesting that terror could be linked with the organisations mentioned in my brief speech at Jaipur," Shinde said.
"I will continue to perform my duties to the best of my ability to ensure harmony is maintained in the social fabric of India," Shinde added.
The BJP welcomed Shinde's statement expressing regret over his Hindu terror remarks but maintained that had he done so earlier it would not have "gladdened the hearts" of terrorists based in Pakistan.
"We accept this regret from the Home Minister but this ought to have come much earlier. Shinde's comment against the RSS and the BJP was totally unwarranted, baseless and malicious. If Mr Shinde knew that what has spoken was incorrect he ought to have accepted his mistake earlier graciously," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad was quoted as saying by PTI.
Shinde had said in Jaipur last month, "We have got an investigation report that be it the RSS or BJP, their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism." He later said he meant "saffron terrorism" not "Hindu terrorism."
After an all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to discuss ways to ensure smooth conduct of the session on the eve of the Budget Session, leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj said, "We told the Speaker that we want the house to run and debate many important topics but the (Shinde) issue should be resolved first."
"According to Shinde, if we are terrorists, then I should not be leader of opposition and he should take action against the RSS," Swaraj said.
Swaraj said her party wanted to raise issues like the price rise, the drought in Maharashtra, hailstorm in Madhya Pradesh, the chopper deal, beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistan Army, political crisis in Maldives and the potential threat from China during the session.
"In a democracy, there is never unanimity over various issues... our efforts will be to find convergence," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said.
Earlier in the day, several BJP leaders were detained in the national capital when they tried to take out a march to protest Shinde's remarks. BJP president Rajnath Singh and colleagues Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar were detained along with a mass of supporters at Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital.
The BJP had yesterday said it would target Shinde in parliament for his remarks on saffron terror and press him for an apology.
The decision to corner Shinde for his comments linking BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to "saffron terror" was taken at a meeting of top BJP leaders at L.K. Advani's residence.
The issue threatened to cast its shadow over the budget session of parliament as the BJP had decided it will not respond to any communication from Shinde as Leader of the House in Lok Sabha
The party had also decided it will boycott public programmes of Shinde till he apologized for his remarks.
Sources said Shinde and Sushma Swaraj met in presence of Meira Kumar after the all-party meeting. (With agency inputs)