Mumbai: Pakistani-origin musician Adnan Sami was at the centre of a raging political debate on Monday with the ruling BJP and the LJP saying he is highly deserving of the Padma Shri while the opposition Congress questioned the merit of the award and the NCP labelled it an insult.
As parties across the spectrum debated his contribution to India, Sami, who became an Indian citizen in 2016 and on Sunday expressed his "infinite gratitude" at being chosen for the government award, did not mince his words in hitting out at his critics.
The 46-year-old, who has carved out a career in Hindi film music as a composer and a singer, was part of an unseemly Twitter spat with Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill and also many political discussions, ranging from the controversy over the Citizenship Amendment Act to his father's past as a Pakistani Air Force pilot.
Taking umbrage at Shergill's statement that his recognition was due to his sycophancy, an irate Sami said on Twitter, "Hey kid, did you get your brain from a Clearance Sale' or from a second hand novelty store? Did they teach you in Berkeley that a son is to be held accountable or penalised for the acts of his parents?"
Many critics have questioned the government for honouring the singer whose father fought against India in the 1965 war.
Hitting out at opposition parties over their criticism of the government's decision to confer a Padma Shri on the singer, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra wondered if they only like Muslims who are "against" Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India and its institutions.
Countering the criticism about Sami's father, Patra raked up Congress president Sonia Gandhi's father and spoke of his alleged association with Mussolini and Hitler to ask why she was given Indian citizenship.
There was no immediate response from the Congress on the BJP's charge.
Patra asserted that Sami is "highly deserving" and was given the Padma honour on merit.
He also referred to Sami's mother Naureen Khan's background as a resident of Jammu to target the Congress, asking if the party does not respect Muslim women from the region.
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP also backed the decision, saying Sami has enhanced India's stature with his talent.
"He has elevated India's reputation and honour through his talent... Those who are opposing the award to the famous singer are not aware of Indian Citizenship Law. Indian citizenship has no relation with religion. Anyone who fulfils the requisite conditions of the citizenship act can become Indian citizen," the LJP leader said as debate rages across the country on the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Calling Sami's Padma Shri an "insult" to 130 crore Indians, the NCP described the award as a "damage control" act by the NDA government "facing questions" over the CAA, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.
In a dig, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik also said that any Pakistani citizen can now avail Indian citizenship by chanting "Jai Modi".
Congress spokesperson Shergill engaged with Sami directly.
Addressing him as "Uncle Ji", Shergill said he did not need to be lectured on Indian culture from a person who has "distanced or disowned his own father for the sake of earning few claps on Twitter".
Shergill also asked Sami to recount five contributions towards India in the last five years.
The singer hit back saying, "Don't u dare presume to talk about my sacred relationship with my late illustrious father 'bachay' (kid)!"
Shergill said he initially did not want to bring Sami's father but when the singer called him "hey kid", he decided to give him "a taste of his own pill".
"Indulging in Twitter spat is not my nature but if someone will attack me personally then it is important to teach them in their own language. Making Indian Soldiers stand in line to prove citizenship and conferring honor on those from across border is not acceptable, Jai Hind," Shergill wrote.
Sami, born in London to a Pakistani Air force veteran, applied for Indian citizenship in 2015 and became a citizen of the country in January 2016.
He was one of the 118 people whose names were announced on Saturday for the Padma Shri awards, with the Ministry of Home Affairs list showing his home state as Maharashtra.