When the information and culture minister of Punjab in Pakistan, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, came up with anti-Hindu remarks in a recent speech, he was criticised by the country’s minorities and some senior party leaders too. Following a vigorous social media campaign in which scores of Pakistanis called him out, he was sacked. The Pakistani media reported that the sacking order came straight from Prime Minister Imran Khan.
India’s constitution guarantees equal rights for all. Citizens have the right to practise any religion they want. Pakistan is an Islamic state and all citizens are not equal. Non-Muslims, for example, cannot become president. As a secular state, India prides itself on treating minority citizens better than Pakistan treats its Hindus and Christians. Yet, in the sacking of a minister for anti-Hindu comments, Pakistan has clearly stolen a march over India.
If Narendra Modi were to follow Imran Khan’s example, here is a list of ministers from the ruling BJP who could be sacked on similar grounds.
1. Mahesh Sharma
In a 2015 interview with India Today TV, Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said about the late former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam that he was a “great man” who was a “nationalist” and a “humanist”, “despite being a Muslim”.
Despite this blatant communal remark – that too against one of India’s most loved former presidents – he was not criticised by his seniors in government, let alone made to resign.
2. Anant Kumar Hegde
Anant Kumar Hegde, minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship, had said in 2016 that “as long as there is Islam in the world, there will be terrorism. Until we uproot Islam, we can’t remove terrorism.” He went on to say that “Islam is a bomb for world peace”.
Soon after the five-time parliamentarian had made the statement, he was made a Central minister in a reshuffle – an effort by BJP to increase representation in the cabinet as Karnataka state elections were to be held soon.
Hegde’s controversial statements do not end here. In a function organised by the Hindu Jagrana Vedike in Karnataka’s Kodaugu district earlier this year, he said that “the hand that touches a Hindu woman must not exist”.
Hegde had also run into controversy late in 2017 when he had stated that the BJP-led government was in power to “change the constitution,” as to remove the word ‘secular’ from it.
3. Sadhvi Niranjan
The minister of state for food processing industries, Sadhvi Nairanjan, while launching the BJP’s election campaign for the Delhi assembly in December 2014 had said that the voters had to choose between ‘ramzadon’ (those born of Ram) and ‘haramzadon’ (illegitimately born).
The rally was held in West Delhi’s Shyam Nagar area. Jyoti said, “Aapko tay karna hai ki Dilli mein sarkar Ramzadon ki banegi ya haramzadon ki. Yeh aapka faisla hai (You must decide whether you want a government of those born of Ram or of those born illegitimately).”
Under pressure, Modi acknowledged in parliament that the minister should not have spoken like that but did not take action against her.
4. Giriraj Singh
The minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises, Giriraj Singh, was taken to task by a local court after he had said in an election meeting in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district on April 19 in 2014 that those who opposed Narendra Modi should go to Pakistan.
There was an FIR launched against him, from which he was bailed later.
In 2016, he made a hate speech, accusing Muslims of producing too many children – a standard argument of communalist politicians.
5. Sadhana Singh
BJP MLA Sadhna Singh had commented on opposition leader Mayawati earlier this year, saying that she (Mayawati) was a “blot on womankind” and “worse than a transgender”.
She had later issued an apology on the statement.
6. Anupriya Patel
Union minister of state for health and family welfare Anupriya Patel, who happens to be one of the youngest ministers in Modi’s council, ran into a controversy after her Twitter handle was found to have tweeted controversial, hate-propagating statements:
“Our own traitors have destroyed us. Otherwise have you ever heard of 100 crores (the numerical strength of Hindus in India) getting scared of 20 crore mullahs (Muslims)”.
After she was called out for her remarks, she filed an FIR, claiming that the Twitter handle which was used for such tweets was fake. Ironically, several BJP ministers had congratulated her on the same Twitter handle when she became minister.
7. Shobha Karandlaje
BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje was booked for hate speech in December 2017 after she tweeted statements that were “provocative in nature” and could have led “two communities to clash and also disrupt the peace in the region”.
She had tweeted, tagging the then chief minister of the state Siddaramaiah, accusing him of not taking any action against the “jihadists” while calling for the arrest of a school girl’s alleged molesters. It later came to light that the girl’s wounds were self-inflicted.
8. Yogi Adityanath
In November 2015, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had said that there is “no difference between the language of Shah Rukh Khan and that of Hafiz Saeed.” This happened after the Bollywood veteran added his voice to the protest against the spirit of intolerance in the country.
The five-time Lok Sabha member had said that if the “huge mass” was to boycott Shahrukh Khan, then he would be walking around the streets like a “normal Muslim”. He also suggested the Bollywood actor move to Pakistan.
The chief minister was named in 2007 hate speech case, but the UP government – led by Adityanath himself – refused the police sanction to prosecute. The Allahabad high court backed this decision, in spite of the fact that Adityanath had admitted to saying what he was accused of on TV.
The petitioners had argued that his hate speech, in which he allegedly called for revenge against Muslims, precipitated large-scale communal violence in Gorakhpur.
9. T. Raja Singh
The BJP MLA, a member of Telangana Legislative Assembly, had said that ‘secular Hindus’ are a hindrance to the ‘Akhand Hindu rashtra’ dream.
In a speech in November last year, he had said that he didn’t need the votes of Muslim who eat beef and hurt his ‘sentiments’. He had also called out to his Telangana counterpart Akbaruddin Owaisi, saying that the latter’s head will be under his foot in “five minutes”; if not, then he’d change his name. He also called Owaisi an “anti-national”, saying that he would banish him out of the country.
10. Vinay Katiyar
Vinay Katiyar, the founding president of Bajrang Dal and a member of the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh, had said that “Muslims have been given their share (of land). They should go to Bangladesh or Pakistan”.
He also blamed the Muslim community for partitioning the country on the basis of population.
11. Tathagata Roy
The governor of Meghalaya, who is a senior leader of the BJP, recently called for a complete boycott of Kashmiris and Kashmiri products.
He had promoted this call on Twitter as an “appeal from a retired colonel of the Indian Army”.
12. Vikram Singh Saini
Vikram Saini, an MLA from Uttar Pradesh for the BJP, had said in the communally-sensitive Muzaffarnagar – the epicentre of the 2013 riots – that “some scatter-brained leaders made the bearded ones stay, which is why we are in trouble today…had they left, all this land would have belonged to us.”
Earlier in January, he had said that those who “feel unsafe and threatened in India should be bombed”. He also added that he would take the initiative of bombing such people if given a position on the ministry.
The use of hate by high-profile politicians has increased almost 500% in the past four years, as per an NDTV data collection exercise which scanned nearly 1,300 articles and cross-referred them, going through 1,000 recent tweets by public figures and politicians. From 2009 to 2014 in UPA’s regime, there were 21 instances of hate by 21 politicians, compared to 124 instances of hate by 44 politicians between 2014 and 2018. During the UPA’s term, the BJP had participated in 86% of hate speech; the Congress in the remaining 14%. During NDA’s term, the BJP’s participation in the 124 instances of hate speech soared to 90%.