Prime Minister Narendra Modi under fire for silence over communal controversies

Modi has long faced accusations of looking the other way when Hindu mobs went on a rampage of revenge during Gujarat riots.

By: Reuters | New Delhi | Updated: July 27, 2014 12:32 pm
PM Narendra Modi Several commentators said Modi’s failure to speak out about the incidents risked encouraging aggressive behaviour by fringe elements of his party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for remaining silent about incidents deemed anti-Muslim in the past week, underscoring fears that his followers will upset religious relations in the multi-faith nation.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in May after an election campaign that mainly focused on promises to revive the economy but that also made reference to country’s majority Hindu identity.

Footage emerged this week of Shiv Sena trying to force food into the mouth of a Muslim caterer. Separately, a BJP politician questioned the national identity of tennis player Sania Mirza, while an ally of the prime minister said India could become a Hindu nation under Modi.

Several commentators said Modi’s failure to speak out about  the incidents risked encouraging aggressive behaviour by fringe elements of his party and related organisations.

“The prime minister needs to come out strongly against such comments in order to reassure the minorities that their apprehensions about the intent of his regime are misplaced … Silence on his part will only encourage such elements,” a leading English daily said in an editorial.

The country has a dark history of religious violence, especially between the Hindu majority and Muslims, who account for more than 150 million people, making India the world’s third most populous Muslim nation.

Indian till the end

On Wednesday, footage was aired of the Shiv Sena MP,  an ally of the BJP, trying to shove chapati, into a Muslim caterer‘s mouth during the Ramadan period of fasting.

The Shiv Sena MP, Rajan Vichare, a high school dropout and suspect in 13 criminal cases, later said he did not know the caterer was Muslim and that he was fasting. He said he had been making a point about the bad quality of the food being served.

The incident led to chaotic scenes in parliament, with one BJP member demanding that some opposition politicians be sent to Pakistan. He later apologised for his comments.

On Thursday, BJP politician K. Laxman denounced a move to name Indian tennis star Sania Mirza the brand ambassador of newborn Telangana state, calling Mirza, who is married to a Pakistani cricketer, the “daughter-in-law” of India’s rival nation.
Mirza broke down during a television interview to a local news channel and said it was unfair that she had to keep asserting her “Indianness”.

“I am an Indian who will remain an Indian until the end of my life,” she said on Thursday in a statement posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The BJP distanced itself from Laxman’s remarks.

“Sania Mirza is the pride of India,” cabinet minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters, but newspaper editorials highlighted Modi’s silence. “He could say these are non-issues, he could say these are trivial misunderstandings being communalised by a hyperactive media. But he chooses to say absolutely nothing,” said an editorial on another news and opinion website. “Unfortunately his silence can get uncomfortably loud.”

The BJP itself burst into prominence in the late 1980s as it helped mobilise a movement leading to the destruction of a 16th-century mosque in the Uttar Pradesh town of Ayodhya that Hindus say was built on the birthplace of the god-king Ram. About 2,000 people were killed in riots across India in 1992 after the disputed mosque was torn down by Hindu mobs.

Modi has long faced accusations of looking the other way when Hindu mobs went on a rampage of revenge against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, when he was that state’s chief minister, after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was torched. Modi has denied the allegations and an inquiry ordered by the Supreme Court absolved him of responsibility.

Also on Thursday, a local minister from Goa state allied to the BJP said India could become a Hindu nation under Modi’s rule, drawing criticism from the opposition Congress party.

“Please stop this – communalising the country. This is our request to the ruling coalition,” said P.C. Chacko, a Congress spokesman, according to a statement of his remarks.

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  1. A
    A S
    Jul 27, 2014 at 9:34 am
    Should Modi slso condemn raping of an innocent school girl of 6 yrs by muslim teacher? While MP who shoved food into the mouth of caterer may not know that he was a muslim the teacher who raped the girl did know the girl was a Hindu. Most of the news channels are scare mongering.
  2. S
    Jul 28, 2014 at 2:01 am
    It is good that he is not saying anything. This will distract him. He is solely focused on the economy. And turning the decades old socialist thinking will need all his energy and attention.There are 30,000 official rapes in India every year. This is what police should be handling - not the Prime Minister of the country.
  3. S
    Dec 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm
    Mr Modi is very capable administrator. He will surely stabilize the Indian Economic and lead the nation to a transitional change. I wish his ability must not be compressed in a regional feelings such as religion and language.
  4. C
    Chetan Shetty
    Jul 29, 2014 at 3:58 am
    Sania ,force feeding and Hindu state are not at all a issue..these r are all over highlighted by Media crocks..Modi knows how to handle these media and paid news's. no one wants clarification from Modi only Paid journalists are expecting clarification..too funny
  5. P
    Jul 27, 2014 at 6:15 pm
    More power to Modi. Let the secular losers stew in their juices.
  6. G
    Jul 27, 2014 at 9:08 am
    there are no fringe aggressive hindu elements in modi's mainstream aggression, approved by modi, and that's why he's quiet.
  7. H
    Harpreet Dhillon
    Jul 29, 2014 at 3:42 am
    Cannot we expect India's PM to speak a word about the deaths of Indian citizens??Don't forget that it is PM's responsibility to extend support to UP government to stop this communal violence, and so far, he could not utter a single word; that's shocking..
  8. H
    Harpreet Dhillon
    Jul 29, 2014 at 6:37 am
    How about Modi's government paying money to prominent BJP, RSS, and other Hindu leaders in Godhra to give fake testimonies in the court against the Muslim names they would provide to those leaders in 2002?Those Godhra leaders were given the content they had to speak, along with the names they had to mention, and didn't have a clue how the Muslims who were to be named looked like.
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