Statements about Islamophobia by the Indian Prime Minister spark anger among the opposition and the Muslim community

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a rally in Sydney, Australia, on May 23, 2023

His comments have sparked widespread anger.

The world’s most populous country is in the midst of a mammoth election lasting weeks, with Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) widely expected to secure a rare third consecutive term.

Speaking to a large crowd in the western state of Rajasthan, Modi said that if he were voted to power, the country’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, would distribute the country’s wealth to “infiltrators” and “those who have more children’. clear reference to the Muslim community.

“When they (Congress) were in power, they said that Muslims have the first right to resources. They will collect all your wealth and distribute it to those who have more children. They will be distributed among the infiltrators,” Modi said to loud roars from the crowd.

“Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators? Would you accept this?” Modi said.

The comments have been seized upon by the opposition, which has long accused Modi and the BJP of using divisive rhetoric to boost their increasingly popular brand of Hindu nationalism.

Opposition figures have called on the Election Commission of India (ECI) to investigate whether Modi’s comments violate the body’s code of conduct.

The code states that politicians should not appeal to voters on the basis of ‘caste’ and ‘communal sentiments’. Activities that could “aggravate differences, create mutual hatred or cause tension” between communities and religions are also not allowed.

CNN has contacted the ECI for comment.

Modi drew widespread backlash from members of the Muslim community for his comments at a time when many fear a third BJP term will deepen communal rifts already running through the country.

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“This is not a dog whistle, this is a targeted, direct, brutal hate speech against a community,” wrote prominent Muslim journalist Rana Ayyub on X.

Muslim parliamentarian and chairman of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, Asaduddin Owaisi, said: “Modi today called Muslims infiltrators and people with many children. Since 2002 till today, Modi’s only guarantee is to abuse Muslims and get votes.”

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge described Modi’s comments as “hate speech” and “a well-thought-out ploy to divert attention.”

“Today the Prime Minister did what he learned from the values ​​of the Sangh,” referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu paramilitary organization of which Modi was once a youth member and to which the BJP is affiliated. “In the history of India, no prime minister has degraded the dignity of his post as much as Modi.”

Modi came to power in 2014 on a promise of development and anti-corruption. During his term he became increasingly popular and was re-elected five years later – the second time on a more openly Hindu nationalist ticket.

Over the past decade, Modi and his BJP have been accused of fueling religious polarization with their Hindu nationalist policies, sparking a wave of Islamophobia and deadly communal clashes in the world’s largest secular democracy.

India’s Muslim minority population is enormous – some 230 million people – and Muslims have lived in what is now modern India for centuries. But a false conspiracy by some Hindu nationalists is to accuse Muslims of being somehow outsiders and to spread the false narrative that they are displacing the country’s Hindu population by deliberately having large families.

The BJP has repeatedly said that it does not discriminate on the basis of religion and treats all citizens equally.

But research, reporting and rights groups say divisions have grown in the country of 1.4 billion.

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Anti-Muslim speech has increased dramatically, according to a recent report by Washington-based research group India Hate Lab, which documented 668 such cases in 2023. Of these cases, 75% occurred in BJP-ruled states, the report said.

India bans hate speech under several sections of its penal code, including a section that criminalizes “intentional and malicious acts” intended to insult religious beliefs, but rights groups say there is a lack of immediate and adequate action against the alleged perpetrators of such acts. giving tacit support to right-wing extremists.

Source: CNN