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New Delhi: As Bharatiya Janata Party suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled its Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal on Sunday after their remarks against Prophet Muhammad earned severe diplomatic backlash for India in the Gulf countries, opposition leaders were not impressed.
Nor were activists, journalists and commenters on social media, many of whom sought to highlight that BJP did not mention Nupur Sharma, Naveen Jindal, the nature of their remarks or even the word ‘Muslims’, who were the religious community offended by the said remarks.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen head and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi – who had earlier lodged a complaint that led to an FIR against Nupur Sharma as well as former BJP leader Qavi Abbasi of the Inquilab Party for allegedly threatening Sharma – said the suspension was a “sham.”
FRINGE is MAINSTREAM. Backed by none less than @AmitShah. Is this why cops still haven’t arrested anyone? Suspension is a sham. Chota Savarkars were smug because of govt support. If Genocide Sansad gang was punished, BJP spokies wouldn’t have insulted Prophet PBUH on natl TV 1/2 pic.twitter.com/DKLKNrkYkK
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) June 5, 2022
Owaisi also questioned the trigger for the suspension, noting the absence of action when domestic Muslims were outraged about the remarks.
“Twenty crore Indian Muslims’ religious beliefs were insulted. Rather than addressing their concerns, Modi et al were more afraid of a foreign backlash. Very unfortunate,” he tweeted.
Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam asked the BJP to teach its leaders to behave with responsibility.
“BJP must teach its leaders to behave and talk responsibly. Most of them talk under the ideological influence of Islamophobia. Politics of hatred is their guiding principle. Now, the country is paying the price for their retrograde statements on Islam. Shame on them,” the Left leader said in a tweet.
The Congress called the BJP’s move “placatory” and highlighted that it only came when the party’s government faced “threats from external powers”.
BJP’s statement today saying, “strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion” is nothing but a blatantly counterfeit pretence & sham attempt at damage control.
This is what is called – “नौ सौ चूहे खा कर बिल्ली हज को चली”.
Our Statement 👇 pic.twitter.com/d8M1GRtNFX
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) June 5, 2022
Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram said on Monday that Sharma and Kumar were “not the original creators” of Islamophobia, adding that they were”trying to [be] more loyal than the king”.
“Domestic criticism did not impel the BJP to act against the two spokespersons. It was only the international backlash that pushed the BJP to take action,” the former Union minister tweeted.
Domestic criticism did not impel the BJP to act against the two spokespersons. It was only the international backlash that pushed the BJP to take action
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) June 6, 2022
Telangana minister K.T. Rama Rao issued a strong note of protest, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and asking why the country should apologise to the international community for “the hate speeches of BJP bigots.”
The son of state chief minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi head K. Chandrashekhar Rao, also noted Modi’s silence when MP and Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh lauded Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.
Modi Ji, Your silence was deafening & shocking when BJP MP Pragya Singh hailed assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Let me remind you sir; What you permit is what you promote
The tacit support from top is what emboldened the bigotry & hatred that will cause irreparable loss to 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/VSgHd6P2Hh
— KTR (@KTRTRS) June 6, 2022
Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused the BJP of pushing India into a dark age of religious polarisation to “subserve its parochial political agenda in the short term”.
“Is the BJP sincere in course correcting? Is the BJP trying to atone for its immeasurable sins or is it more chameleon-like posturing?” he asked.
“BJP’s statement today saying, ‘strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion’ is nothing but a blatantly counterfeit pretence and sham attempt at damage control,” Surjewala tweeted.
“None less than the Prime Minister and the BJP Chief Ministers, of the ilk of Adityanath, have introduced a new political vocabulary of State sponsored division of society, i.e. ‘Shamshan-Kabristan’, ’80 versus 20′, ‘bulldozer’,” he said, adding that the language of politics during elections no longer centres around phrases like development, employment, progress, education, agriculture, irrigation, electricity, trade and business and infrastructure.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the Union government calling BJP spokespersons “fringe elements” is a joke.
In a press release, a spokesperson of the Indian Embassy in Qatar said the Indian ambassador had a meeting at the Foreign Office, in which concerns were raised on the BJP leaders’ remarks. “The ambassador conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India. These are the views of fringe elements,” the spokesperson said.
Reacting to the statement, Ramesh tweeted: “BJP has suspended two spokespersons after protests by Qatar government. This is what Americans call a good cop-bad cop routine. First, get your people to be obnoxious. Then act against them under pressure, to appear moderate. MEA calling BJP spokespersons ‘fringe elements’ is a joke!”
Several other commentators highlighted the problem of labelling Nupur Sharma as ‘fringe’ especially when she is followed by no less than the prime minister and a host of senior BJP leaders. Among those who tweeted were Alt News journalist Mohammed Zubair, who first brought Sharma’s and Jindal’s comments to light and has since been the target of rightwing Twitter’s vitriolic campaign.
So BJP Spokespersons are "Fringe Elements" according to a statement released by Government of India. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/UNvhwpbolr
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) June 5, 2022
On Twitter, Nupur Sharma is followed by Modi, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Giriraj Singh, & Bhupendra Yadav; the BJP’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya; BJP’s Delhi chief Adesh Gupta & Delhi in-charge Baijayant Panda. The Savarkar Gang still calls her fringe.
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) June 5, 2022
Other Congress leaders, including social media department head Rohan Gupta, also tweeted against the BJP over the claim that wrongdoers were ‘fringe’.
Now Indian Government calls BJP spokespersons Fringe Elements ! pic.twitter.com/sS9xfnhJ4k
— Rohan Gupta (@rohanrgupta) June 5, 2022
“The way the BJP has adopted the phrase ‘Ghar Phoonk Tamasha Dekhna’ (making a spectacle after setting the house on fire), the head of every secular citizen of the country has bowed in shame. Now even non-resident Indians are coming under the grip of this fire. This fire should be doused immediately,” former Union minister Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet in Hindi.
Object lesson: Those who express bigotry at home should be aware of the consequences abroad. India has enjoyed a proud standing in the world, which is being undermined by the irresponsibility of the communal-minded who have been allowed free rein for too long by the ruling party. https://t.co/cZc0gTSdna
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) June 5, 2022
Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra also touched upon the “fringe elements” claim, also listing other alleged rabble-rousing activities by Sharma.
Who are BJP kidding? This spokesperson tried to pass off 2002 Guj riots photo as WB riot in July 2017 & Kolkata Police filed non-bailable case against her.
Serial hater, lauded & propped up by her party.
Middle East heat just got too much for MEA to handle this time.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) June 5, 2022
Fringe elements indeed! Indians are mere spectators- watching mainstream narrative hijacked by the lunatic fringe since 2014
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) June 5, 2022
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said the BJP “suddenly waking up” to denounce the insult of any religious personality has nothing to do with having “offended” the sentiments of Muslims in the country.
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. pic.twitter.com/ef5dzMYa8k
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 5, 2022
In additional tweets, Abdullah sought to highlight the alleged fallacy of Jindal’s apology after expulsion.
This man had called The Prophet (PBUH) a rapist. Nauzubillah. Now he says his remarks “weren’t aimed at hurting religious sentiments of any community”. What did he think the remarks would do? They were made knowing they would hurt sentiments, he just didn’t foresee the outcome! https://t.co/R20pQhesKM
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 5, 2022
Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav called the move by BJP a sham, asking the party to take a stronger step.
Without naming him, Akhilesh also gave the example of Dayashankar Singh, who after having been suspended for remarks against Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, had his suspension revoked and is now a Union minister.
भाजपा नूपुर शर्मा पर सिर्फ़ निलंबन की दिखावटी कार्रवाई न करे बल्कि वैधानिक क़दम उठाए।
विवादित बयान पर भाजपा से निलंबन तो उनका भी हुआ था, जो आज उप्र की भाजपा सरकार में मंत्री बने बैठे हैं।
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) June 5, 2022