New Delhi: Amid unprecedented international outcry following the Islamophobic remarks made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) official spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, the Union government has been scrambling to distance itself from the controversy.
In a statement issued immediately after backlash erupted in the Gulf, a spokesperson of the Indian Embassy in Qatar said the Indian ambassador had conveyed that the questionable remarks were made by “fringe elements” and do not represent, in any way, the government’s position.
In its own official statement, BJP appeared to be intent upon damage control and not any genuine disavowal of anti-Muslim intent. The BJP has also attempted to distance itself from the sentiment without any legitimate accountability taken for the fact that an Islamophobic member was in its ranks – how, after all, can official spokespersons of the ruling party be “fringe” elements? Finally, it avoided mentioning Sharma’s and Jindal’s remarks altogether.
However, the government’s statement has exposed its doublespeak in the face of international pressure. Anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiments have not just been limited to Sharma and Jindal but have been consistently aired by high-ranking members of the BJP and the government with impunity.
Here’s a list of 10 times in the past year alone that BJP members have made comments against Muslims.
Yogi Adityanath: Hundreds of dog-whistles against Muslims
In the run-up to the last two Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, one of the main campaign planks of chief minister Yogi Adityanath was to stoke anti-Muslim hatred and divisiveness. The Wire conducted an in-depth analysis of 34 of his publicly available speeches and quantified the hate speech made by him.
Apart from dog whistles – referring to Muslims as those who say ‘abba jaan’ while speaking derogatorily of them, using shorthand like criminals (apradhiyon), mafias and rioteers – he also consistently positions them relative to terrorists.
Referring to Muslims as the “Taliban”, he said, “Lekin Talibanikaran qatayi hum sweekar nahi hone denge aur jo bhi Taliban ka samarthan UP ki dharti par karega sakhti ke saath ussey nipatne ka karye bhi sarkar karegi (But we will not allow the Taliban to be established, and whoever supports the Taliban, the government will stop it with strength).”
He has also repeatedly spoken about using state force against Muslims when he speaks of the ‘bulldozer’ to be deployed against “rioters” – far from a rhetorical device, this was a literal plan of action, one which has since come to life repeatedly, as seen here, here and here.
BJP worker Dinesh Kushwaha assaults a man he thought was a Muslim
In May, a 65-year-old man with cognitive disabilities from Madhya Pradesh, Bhawarlal Jain, was returning to his home after attending a wedding. He lost his way. Three days later, he was found dead and his body was recovered.
Meanwhile, a video of Dinesh Kushwaha, a BJP worker, assaulting the man while asking him for his name went viral.
In the video, the BJP worker says, “Tera naam kya hai? ‘Mohammed‘ naam hai tera?… Aadhaar card dikha…(What is your name? Mohammed? Show me your Aadhaar Card).”
In the minute-long video, Kushwaha is seen incessantly beating Jain. The following morning Jain was found dead.
The district president of BJP’s Neemuch district confirmed Kushwaha’s membership with the BJP, and the police added that his wife was a former BJP corporator.
‘Muslims should be set ablaze’: Haribhushan Thakur Bachaul
Less than a month ago, Bihar BJP MLA Haribhushan Thakur Bachaul said that Muslims should be set ablaze just as Hindus burn Ravana effigies during the festival of Dussehra.
Earlier, in February 2022, the BJP MLA had also said that Muslims living in India should be stripped of voting rights and treated as second-class citizens.
Ashwini Upadhyay’s sloganeering and presence at Haridwar Dharma Sansad
On August 10, 2021, BJP leader and Supreme Court lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay was arrested for his role in the anti-Muslim sloganeering which took place at a rally in favour of the uniform civil code, at Jantar Mantar, Delhi.
Among the slogans were those calling for Muslims to be murdered. Upadhyay insisted that he had been framed and that he had nothing to do with those who raised the slogans.
In November 2021, however, he featured on a panel on the imaginary bogey of ‘thook jihad (spit jihad)’ where he said, “In thook jihadiyon ko ya toh maa baap sikha rahe hai ya koi school mein jaa rahe hai (These thook jihadis are either being taught all this by their parents or at their schools).”
He even suggested that Muslim men may be mixing other body fluids in the food they prepare, Newslaundry reported.
One month later in December 2021, he was a notable BJP presence at the now-notorious Dharma Sansad which took place at Haridwar. At this event, the hate speech included calls for the genocide of Indian Muslims in the style of the Rohingyas of Myanmar as well as an explicit call for the mass murder of Muslims.
Pooja Shakun Pandey said, “Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs of them (Muslims), then we will be victorious, and go to jail.”
The event concluded with an oath-taking which called for the “protection” of the Hindu religion against all those who might pose a threat to it ‘by any means necessary’.
BJP Mahila Morcha leader Udita Tyagi present at Dharma Sansad
BJP Mahila Morcha leader Udita Tyagi was also present at the Dharma Sansad where genocidal calls were made, but this was not the first time that she has been affiliated with the same.
In an interview by a channel called ‘DO Politics’, she was present and consistently offered supportive affirmations to Yati Narsinghanand.
The conversation featured a number of anti-Muslim sentiments, key among them being that the Hindu community needed to be mobilised against the Muslim community for their protection, even at the risk of jail, to do bodily harm.
The conversation called for arms to be taken up against the Muslim community, and Narsinghanand spoke in fundamentalist terms of a religious war which would require sacrifice, for which he would be willing to sacrifice his life.
‘If Hindus wake up, we will pull your beards and make a chotia‘: MLA Mayankeshwar Singh
In the run-up to elections, BJP MLA Mayankeshwar Singh from east Uttar Pradesh’s Siddharthnagar made a speech where he threatened Muslims with bodily harm for effectively just existing.
“If Hindus in Hindustan wake up the beard will be pulled and made into a choti (a tightened braid). If you have to live in Hindustan you have to say ‘Radhe Radhe’, else, like those who went to Pakistan during the partition, you can go too… you have no use here,” he can be heard saying in the video.
Presence of 3 BJP legislators at ‘arms training camp’ by Bajrang Dal
On May 5, a ‘training camp’ organised by the Bajrang Dal in the Kodagu district of Karnataka went viral on social media showing youths, appearing to be minors, in possession of air-guns, trishuls and other weapons.
BJP leaders K.G. Bopaiah, Appachuranjan and Suja Kushalappa were booked after the Social Democratic Party of India lodged a complaint against them.
However, the officer charged with probing the case was later subject to a ‘punishment posting’, transferred to Karnataka Lokayukta – not considered a lucrative posting in the state’s police circles.
‘Hindus who don’t vote for me have Miyan blood in their veins’: BJP MLA Raghvendra Pratap Singh
The BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Dumariaganj, who happens to be a repeat offender when it comes to anti-Muslim statements, went viral in a video where he was seen threatening Muslims and accused all Hindus who did not vote for him of being Muslims.
He said, “Any Hindu who doesn’t vote for me has Miyan blood in his veins. He’s a trait0r. He is a b*st**d son of Jaichand. He’s a sinner son of his father…I am warning you this time…traitors of Hindu religion will be destroyed.”
He also goes on to threaten Muslims by saying, “Listen Muslims, if any Hindu is insulted and if you look at any Hindu girl, then I’ll get you beaten so much and cut so much…that…”. The latter part of his warning drowns out amidst ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants.
In an earlier video circulated in February, he was seen saying, “Since I became an MLA, they (the Muslims) have stopped wearing skull caps. If you vote for me again, they will start wearing tilaks.”
In a February 15 panel on India TV, he interrupted a Muslim panelist to hurl religious slurs and abuses against him, threatening to feed pig’s milk (derogatory for Muslims) to the panellist, whom he described as a “b*****d dog and an illegitimate child of Hindus”.
‘Vote for Yogi or face bulldozers’: BJP MLA T. Raja Singh
T. Raja Singh, a BJP MLA in Telangana, has built a history of anti-Muslim statements. In his latest remarks, he threatened those who voted against Yogi Adityanath with the omniscient bulldozers, referring to them as “traitors”, another common dog-whistle to signify Muslims.
He said, “Thousands of bulldozers and JCBs have been bought by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and they are on their way. After the elections, those who voted against Yogiji – their areas will be identified. and I am sure you know what JCBs and bulldozers are used for.
“I want to inform those traitors of UP who don’t want Yogi Adityanath to be elected as CM again that if you want to stay in UP, you will have to chant Yogi-Yogi. If not, you will have to run away from the state,” he said.
BJP MLA Gurjar: Shutting meat shops, ‘Na Ali’ Slogan, told Muslims to sacrifice their children
In January, Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Nand Kishor Gurjar, who is infamous for making communal statements, campaigned with the slogan “Na Ali, Na Bahubali, Keval Bajrang Bali,” for which he was served a notice by the Election Commission during recent Uttar Pradesh elections.
He backtracked by saying that the ‘Ali’ here was Mohammad Ali Jinnah (who died in 1948) saying that he was responsible for the murders and rapes of lakhs of Hindus during Partition.
Gurjar has also supported the vigilante shutdowns of meat shops in Loni, implying it was a necessary condition of ‘Ram Rajya’.
In 2020, Gurjar told Muslims to “sacrifice their children instead of innocent animals” on Bakri Eid. He said meat resulted in the spread of coronavirus.
This is not a comprehensive list of every single hate speech or call to violence made by those associated with the BJP, or the blind and implicit encouragement that the party has offered to those members engaging in hate speech, and incidents of hate crimes.
It does not take into account the dog whistles made by the top brass. It does not take into account the acceptance of individuals like Pragya Thakur, accused of terrorism in the 2008 Malegoan blasts case. It doesn’t take into account the glorification of the demolition of Babri Masjid (described by the Supreme Court as a crime which “shook the secular fabric of India”) and the political plank built off its back, with BJP leaders even today proudly admitting that they participated in its demolition.
It bears asking then, if Nupur Sharma was a “fringe” element who found herself within the walls of the BJP’s house, was she an infiltrator, or was she invited?
Merely a week ago she boasted of the support of senior members of the party. If her statements, as the Union government says, are those of a fringe, the BJP may reconcile itself to the fact that it is now a party that represents, enables and amplifies this fringe.
The BJP is a party that unapologetically supports anti-Muslim politics and rhetoric – it must now reconcile itself to the fact that the world will treat it as such.