Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday waded into a controversy by saying the voting rights of Muslims should be revoked for some years to ensure the community is not used for vote bank politics.
In an article in the latest issue of the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamna, Raut compared All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) leaders Asaduddin and Akbaruddin Owaisi to “poisonous snakes” who “exploit” the Muslim minority.
The Rajya Sabha member endorsed a call by late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, popularly known as Balasaheb, to revoke the voting rights of Muslims.
“If Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future till they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb had demanded that the voting rights of Muslims should be taken away. What he said is right,” Raut wrote.
Raut reiterated in the article: “Balasaheb had said 15 years ago that if the voting rights of Muslims are taken away for a few years, then the vote bank politics will stop.”
He added: “Vote bank politics is being played in the name of fighting against the injustice meted out to Muslims. Their educational and health status is being used politically. This politics was once played by the Congress and now every other person calls himself secular.”
The “secular masks” of so-called secular political parties will be gone once the voting rights of Muslims are withdrawn, he said.
Raut claimed that earlier the Imam of Jama Masjid had assumed the right to guide Muslim votes but now the Owaisis had taken on this role. This, he added, should be an "alarm bell" for Muslims.
He referred to AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi as "Owaisi bhai from Hyderabad" and said: “By saving the hiding place of snakes, you cannot kill them. Owaisi and his party are like a snake which, if fed, will do no good to the nation. AIMIM is an old snake.”
He also responded to an attack on the Shiv Sena by Akbaruddin Owaisi, who had, during a rally in Mumbai earlier this week, dared Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to come to Hyderabad, a stronghold of the AIMIM.
Raut said, “Owaisi dares us to come to Hyderabad. But we want to ask him if Hyderabad is in India or in Lahore, Karachi or Peshawar. The pride of Marathis is known in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kandahar as well.”
As the opposition criticised Raut’s comments, the Shiv Sena sought to downplay the issue by saying it was only opposed to "appeasement politics".
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi opposed the stand taken by Raut and said, "It is disgusting to hear such remarks...We are living in a democratic country, not in any Talibani state."
Kamal Farooqui, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, "The comments are unfortunate and against the law."
But Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe contended that Raut’s article only said that development in every sphere of life could be achieved if the “politics of appeasement” is done away with because it was not in the interest of Muslims.
"The article doesn't want Muslims' voting rights to be taken away, but it is not right for people like (AIMIM leader Asaduddin) Owaisi to nurture the deprived feelings of Muslims. They have been deprived of overall development and are being used and misguided for personal benefits. He (Raut) is opposing this appeasement politics," she said.
The article should be looked at from an "overall perspective" and not be misinterpreted as being against Muslims, she added.
Raut’s article came a day after a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha stoked a controversy by saying Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilisation to restrict their growing population, which was posing a “threat” to Hindus.
"The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilisation so that they can't increase their numbers," Sadhvi Deva Thakur, vice president of the All India Hindu Mahasabha, told reporters at Jind in Haryana.
Thakur also said idols of Hindu gods and goddesses should be placed in mosques and churches.
She exhorted Hindus to have more children and increase their population so they would have an effect across the world.
A complaint was filed with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) against the Shiv Sena MP. Delhi-based lawyer and civil rights activist Shehzad Poonawalla filed the complaint with the NCM.
In his petition to the commission, Poonawalla said: "The footage and report provided (in his petition), clearly show that Sanjay Raut advocates the revocation of voting rights for Muslims in India. This similar demand of disenfranchisement of Muslims in India had been made by Subramanian Swamy in 2011 and the Commission had sought penal action against the former."
"It is in flagrant violation of the Constitutional Guarantee of Right to Freedom of Religion and the Right to Vote granted for every citizen irrespective of his race, religion, caste, class and creed and also of section 153 (A), 295 (A), 298, 504, 505 (1) (b) and (c), 505 (2) of IPC 1860 and amounts to deliberately, intentionally and maliciously outraging the religious feelings, inciting hatred and ill-will amongst communities," the petition stated.
It also amounts to criminal intimidation of Muslims prior to the by-poll election in Maharashtra, it said.
With PTI inputs