Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have intervened immediately after objectionable comments were made on Prophet Mohammad by now-removed BJP leaders, while adding that his silence on the issue was baffling, but in tune with how he had reacted on past occasions.
The comments by the party’s former spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal has sparked a major uproar in the country followed by violent protests in several places, besides leading to a massive diplomatic fallout. More than a dozen Muslim-majority nations have raised their objections to the remarks made by now-sacked BJP spokespersons.
Speaking to news agency PTI on the issue, the Congress MP said, “Most certainly, yes, the Prime Minister should have spoken and acted immediately after the offensive utterances by the two (BJP) spokespersons.”
“It is sad that the government turned a deaf ear when Opposition parties, civil society leaders, writers, scholars and common citizens forewarned the government to put an end to Islamophobia, but woke up startled when 16 countries remonstrated against the utterances,” he added.
Should Indian Muslims look to foreign countries to stop Islamophobia, Chidambaram added.
Chidambaram also spoke on the protests in various parts of the country over the matter, saying the government has been “exposed as insincere” when it comes to upholding secularism.
“I read that Sadhvi Pragya has spoken in support of Nupur Sharma. The silence of the Prime Minister and home minister, the voices within the BJP in support of the spokespersons and the bureaucratic response to the loud protests of 16 foreign countries tell everything about the BJP’s position,” the former Union minister added.
Violent protests have been witnessed in the country over the issue in the past few days. In Ranchi, two people were killed and more than two dozen people were critically injured after protests and clashes rocked the city following Friday prayers. West Bengal’s Howrah saw clashes for two days as tension prevailed in several parts of the country.
Cases have also been registered in Delhi, Maharashtra, and other states where people held massive protests after Friday prayers demanding the arrest of the former BJP leaders.
Chidambram said this is nothing new and it can be traced to the writings of RSS leaders. “Naturally, I am concerned about the ferment in society. It is the responsibility of the government to reassure the minorities and restore peace,” Chidambaram said.
India has drawn flak from many Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Qatar, over the remarks by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal. The party had sacked Jindal and suspended Sharma, and claimed their views as ‘fringe elements’. The Ministry of External Affairs also had to weigh in and state the statements by some individuals do not represent that of the Indian government.