India: Anti-Islamic comments from officials spark unrest
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India faces a diplomatic spat with Muslim-majority trade partners including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Iran after the BJP officials sparked violent street protests with their statements over the Prophet Mohammad. Muslims in India have at times clashed with the Narendra Modi Government amid suspicions over the BJP’s historic ties with far-right Hindu nationalist groups.
A protest leader told France24: “She should be arrested as soon as possible and stringent action should be taken against and this is why we are protesting.”
The ruling party has since suspended or expelled the two officials describing them as “fringe elements.”
Indian Foreign Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi told a press conference: “I think we’ve made it pretty clear that the tweets and comments do not reflect the views of the government.
“This has been conveyed to our interlocutors as also the fact that action has been taken by the concerned quarters against those who made the comments and tweets.”
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Clashes have broken out between Muslims and Hindus and between protesters and police in several areas, with at least 400 people arrested.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a BJP hardliner, ordered the weekend demolition of any illegal buildings of people accused of involvement in riots last week, including the home of Muslim activist Mohammad Javed.
In a letter addressed to India’s chief justice, six former judges and six senior lawyers on Tuesday condemned the state’s action in destroying Javed’s house on Sunday.
The former judges and lawyers urged the Supreme Court to take action to “arrest the deteriorating law and order situation” in Uttar Pradesh.
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“The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted lead to the clear conclusion that demolitions are a form of collective extra-judicial punishment, attributable to a state policy which is illegal,” they wrote.
Local officials said the demolition was justified as parts of the house had been illegally constructed and that Javed had not appeared for hearings on the issue in May.
UP police have said Javed was also involved in riots sparked during one of the recent protests.
K.K. Roy, Javed’s lawyer, said the family only received a copy of the notice late on Friday, two days before the demolition, and that the building was owned by Javed’s wife and not him.
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The protests that have spread to several northern and eastern cities were triggered by derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammad made by two BJP officials in May and June.
The party suspended a spokeswoman and expelled the other official over the comments, and said it condemned any insult towards any religion.
But critics say religious polarisation has deepened in India since Modi came to power in 2014.
Modi has so far not commented on this issue.
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