The Shiv Sena wants All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi beheaded for his March 13 comment that he won’t chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai” even if a knife is put to his throat.
Besides, the row over his comment prompted Uttar Pradesh authorities on Thursday to deny the Hyderabad MP permission to hold two events in the state.
The Sena, a partner in the BJP-led NDA government, also sought revocation of citizenship and voting rights of those who refuse to chant the nationalistic slogan. But orthodox Muslims have reservations since the Hindu right wing portrays Bharat Mata or Mother India as a devi or goddess, which goes against the Islamic tenet of worshipping only Allah.
“(The Gujarat Patel quota stir leader) Hardik Patel was charged with sedition and is in prison for unintentionally insulting the national flag. And then there’s this Owaisi who declines to say Bharat Mata ki Jai even at knifepoint. Why even place a knife at such people’s necks? In fact, they should be beheaded,” said an editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna.
In Dharamshala, Saamna editor and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut said the government should take away “such people’s citizenship and disenfranchise them because refusing to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai amounts to sedition”.
Activists of Hindu Sena, lesser-known radical group, put up posters branding Owaisi as traitor outside his Ashoka Road residence in New Delhi.
The outfit’s leader, Vishnu Gupta, said: “He was trying to instigate Muslims with his anti-nationalistic remarks. He should go to Pakistan if he refuses to respect the country.”
Owaisi’s efforts to hold a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh to start his party’s campaign for the 2017 assembly polls were thwarted after the administration denied him permission, forcing him to cancel his March 17 event in Lucknow.
“The state government does not want the AIMIM to make inroads into the state’s Muslim vote base, which the ruling Samajwadi Party considers its stronghold,” party leader Mohammed Tauheed Siddiqui said.
After Lucknow, the AIMIM leader was scheduled to leave for Azamgarh, an eastern UP district famous for shaping Muslim politics in the state, and attend Friday namaz at the Jama Masjid on March 18.
On the way, he was scheduled to visit Deva Sharif in Barabanki district. Owaisi’s itinerary included regions having a sizeable Muslim population.
The Samajwadi Party is wary of the AIMIM’s design because any split in Muslim votes will help the BJP, which is attempting to wrest power in Uttar Pradesh after winning the state’s 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
Owaisi’s Bharat Mata comment came at an opportune time for the Uttar Pradesh government to keep him away from the state, saying his presence could trigger a law-and-order crisis. The fears were not unfounded as well because a BJP young wing leader had announced a reward of Rs 1 crore to anyone who cuts off Owaisi’s tongue.
The AIMIM chief made his comment at a rally in Maharashtra’s Latur district as a riposte to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that the younger generation must be taught to chant patriotic slogans.
The row escalated when Maharashtra legislative assembly on Wednesday suspended AIMIM legislator Waris Pathan for refusing to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
Muslim leaders in parties opposed to the BJP-led coalition stood by Owaisi. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said: “The RSS and BJP are portraying Bharat Mata as a goddess. Everybody may not want to subscribe to this idea. But nobody would mind praising mother India.”
(With HT correspondents’ inputs from Dharamshala and New Delhi)