Amid furore over comments on Prophet, BJP suspends Nupur Sharma, expels Naveen Jindal
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday suspended one of its spokespersons and expelled another, both of whom had made derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammed and his wife that set off a global uproar, and issued a statement asserting that it “strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion.”
BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma has been suspended from the party’s primary membership, while Naveen Jindal has been expelled, a statement put out by the party read.
Apart from complaints that have been filed in India against the spokespersons, anger had also been building up in recent days in several Arab countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – all of which have very close ties with India and are home to millions of expatriates – over the comments and a tweet by two BJP spokespersons.
The grand mufti of Oman, Sheikh Ahmad bin Hamad Al-Khalil, tweeted that the “obscene” comments of the spokesperson of India’s ruling party amounted to a “war against every Muslim”.
The statement issued by national general secretary, Arun Singh, makes no mention of the comments that were being objected to or to the spokespersons-- Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal-- who triggered the controversy that resulted in clashes in India and consternation abroad. It however, underlined that the party does not condone insults to any religion and respects all faiths.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party is also against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy…During the thousands of years of the history of India every religion has blossomed and flourished. The Bharatiya Janata Party respects all religions,” the brief statement said.
In the backdrop of complaints against the spokespersons, Sharma and Jindal who is also the head of the Delhi BJP’s media unit, the party has clarified that it follows the Constitution that guarantees the right to practice any religion.
“India’s Constitution gives the right to every citizen to practice any religion of his/her choice and to honour and respect every religion. As India celebrates the 75th year of its Independence, we are committed to making India a great country where all are equal and everyone lives with dignity, where all are committed to India’s unity and integrity, where all enjoy the fruits of growth and development,” the statement said.
A senior party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said the party does not agree with the statements made by Sharma on a television show while speaking on the Gyanvapi controversy and that it goes against the grain of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas. “Our party’s agenda is development…,” the functionary said.
On Saturday, one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter in West Asian countries such as Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia referred to the matter and specifically named the Indian PM. The hashtag was widely shared along with calls for boycotting India and Indian products.
While Indian officials did not respond to queries, a senior diplomat from a West Asian country, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the comments and the tweet from the BJP spokespersons had triggered widespread anger in the region and had also not gone down well with the leadership of some countries.
It is understood the matter was informally taken up by some West Asian countries though there was no formal complaint.
The matter was first reported by a website in Kuwait and was subsequently picked up by other Arabic news organisations, with most reports referring to an “insult” to Prophet Mohammed and his wife. Some of the reports referred to an escalation of “hatred towards Islam” and compared the issue to Islamophobia in the West.
Jindal for his part tweeted in Hindi that his intent was not to demean any faith, “We respect the faith of all religions but the question was only for those mindsets that spread hatred by using indecent comments about our deities. I just asked them a question. It does not mean that we are against any religion.”