Sunday August 14, 2022

Blasphemous remarks: Hindu-Muslim clashes erupt in India

Several people injured due to clashes over the ruling BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma’s comments about Islam

By News Desk
June 06, 2022
Blasphemous remarks: Hindu-Muslim clashes erupt in India

MUMBAI/KANPUR: Several people were injured after clashes erupted between Muslims and Hindus in Kanpur and other places over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokeswoman Nupur Sharma’s comments about Islam during a TV debate.

According to the Indian media, Muslims in Kanpur protested against Sharma’s remarks, which turned into a communal clash. Following this, the police rushed to the spot and dispersed the crowd. FIRs were registered and several arrests were made following the violence.

Meanwhile, the BJP on Sunday said it had suspended BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma. In a statement on its website, the party said it respected all religions. "The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion." Sharma said on Twitter she had said some things in response to comments made about a Hindu god but it was never an intention to hurt anyone's religious feelings. “If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement.”

Another BJP spokesman Naveen Jindal was expelled from the party over comments he made about Islam on social media, the BJP office said. Jindal said on Twitter he had questioned some comments made against Hindu gods. “I only questioned them but that does not mean I am against any religion.”

A number of BJP supporters on Twitter lent their support to Sharma and Jindal, and called the BJP high command’s decision “cowardly”. Sharma’s comments prompted complaints from several Muslim countries, including Qatar and Kuwait. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar said in a statement it had summoned the Indian ambassador over the comments. Kuwait also summoned the Indian ambassador and said it had handed the ambassador a protest note in which Kuwait rejected and denounced the statements made by the BJP official.

Qatar's foreign ministry statement also said it welcomed the party's decision to suspend the official but said it was expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of the remarks by the Indian government.

According to reports, the action against the BJP spokespersons was taken after hashtags calling for the boycott of Indian products began trending on Twitter in Arab countries. The Grand Mufti of Oman along with Twitter handles with a large following called for the boycott. The tweets also included a scathing attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Coming against the backdrop of protests occurring both within and outside India against Sharma’s and Jindal’s remarks and an attempt by Hindutva workers to lay claim to Gyanvapi mosque adjacent to the premises of Kashi Vishwanath temple, the BJP is feeling the heat at the international level for what has now become an unabashed pursuit of Hindu majoritarian politics.

Incidentally, the ruling party’s statement in reaction to the social media backlash is in contrast to New Delhi’s indignant tone when it accused the United States of indulging in “votebank politics in international relations” after US secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke of “rising attacks against people and places of worship” in India. This time around there has been no official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs or any of the Indian missions in the Gulf.

Several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, have reportedly removed Indian products from their superstores. In Kuwait, pictures of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been posted on trash bins.

Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi condemned the hurtful comments and said they had hurt the feelings of all Muslims around the world. This, he said, was the reflection of growing trend of Islamophobia in India where Muslims lived in millions. The president said that merely suspending and expelling party officials was not enough but the BJP must shun and denounce its extremist and fascist Hindutva ideology. He called upon the world community, the United Nations and international human rights organisations to take a serious notice of rising Islamophobia and systematic religious persecution in India without impunity and take all steps necessary to put an end to it.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the comments. In a tweet, he said, "I condemn in strongest possible words hurtful comments of India's BJP leader about our beloved Prophet (PBUH). I have said it repeatedly India under Modi is trampling religious freedoms and persecuting Muslims. The world should take note and severely reprimand India. Our love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is supreme. All Muslims can sacrifice their lives for the love and respect of their Holy Prophet (PBUH)."

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan also strongly flayed the hateful attack. In a statement, he said the Modi government had been deliberately following a policy of provocation and hatred towards Muslims in India, including inciting vigilante violence against them. “This attack is the most painful thing anyone can do to the Muslims who feel an intense love and reverence for our Holy Prophet (PBUH). The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must take strong action against Modi's India because sadly so far India has been allowed to get away with its Islamophobic policies,” he added.

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned the repugnant and derogatory remarks. In a statement on his Twitter account, he said it was time for the international community to stop the Hindutva-inspired Islamophobia in India.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office also condemned in the strongest possible terms the derogatory remarks. “Pakistan condemns in the strongest possible terms, the highly derogatory remarks recently made by two senior officials of India’s ruling party BJP. These totally unacceptable remarks have not only deeply hurt the sentiments of the people of Pakistan but of billions of Muslims around the world,” it said in a statement.

“The BJP’s attempted clarification and belated and perfunctory disciplinary action against the individuals cannot assuage the pain and anguish they have caused to the Muslim world. Muslims living in India are equally outraged by the completely repugnant comments by the two BJP officials. The ensuing communal violence in Kanpur and in other parts of India bears testimony to this fact. Pakistan is also deeply concerned at the alarming rise in communal violence and hatred directed against Muslims in India. Muslims in India are being systematically stigmatized, marginalized and subjected to a well-orchestrated onslaught from radical Hindu mobs with full connivance and support of the security apparatus across various states in India. Regrettably, the Indian state machinery has remained aloof to the desperate calls for assistance by the local Muslim communities across the country,” it added.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) vice president Omar Abdullah took a swipe at the BJP after it suspended two of its spokespersons. He said, “The reaction in the Arab world must have really stung. There is a context to the BJP suddenly waking up to denounce 'insult to any religious personalities of any religion' and it has nothing to do with having offended the sentiments of lakhs of Muslims in India. This apology of a statement is aimed at an international audience."