Amid rising communal tensions in the country, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal recently added more fuel to the fire. The ruling party BJP’s official spokesperson Nupur Sharma made derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (religious leader and founder of the world religion of Islam). The remarks were made during a debate programme on the issue of the Gyanvapi Mosque on an English TV news channel.
The video clip of the same was picked and tweeted by Mohammed Zubair of Alt News. This sparked nationwide criticism and also led to the eruption of protests in a few parts of the country. Nupur Sharma also started receiving death threats. To worsen the situation, even more, Naveen Kumar Jindal, BJP’s Delhi media cell chief made derogatory accusations in a tweet about the prophet.
Multiple FIRs were filed against Nupur. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was one out of the many who filed an FIR for using ‘abusive, false and hurtful’ words against the prophet and Islam. In spite of this, the concerned authorities, including the top leaders of the party, showed no interest in taking corrective actions against the two party officials.
It is only when the issue started receiving flak from foreign governments, that the ruling party decided to pay heed to it. Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman Ahmed bin Hamad Al Khalili called out the Indian government and described the remarks as a “war against every Muslim”.
Next, Kuwait, Iran, and Qatar too condemned the offensive remarks and summoned Indian ambassadors to register their protests and demand an apology. Saudi Arabia too issued a strongly-worded statement expressing distress over the issue. Other Islamic states like UAE, The Maldives, Iraq, Indonesia, Bahrain, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya too have condemned the remarks and refused the inflicted insult. These countries have demanded an apology from India as well as stringent actions/punishments against Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal. Most of the countries have also carried out a major pushback against Indian products in their markets as a sign of protest.
In response, the ruling party issued a statement that said, “The BJP strongly denounces insults of any religious personalities of any religion. The BJP is also against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy. Remarks from some “fringe elements” did not represent the views of the Indian government.”
Other BJP leaders and diplomats across the country too have condemned the comments. Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal have issued a public apology. Sharma tweeted, “If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby, unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings.” While Nupur Sharma has been suspended by the BJP, Naveen Kumar Jindal has been expelled from the party.
Political experts, however, say that this step is not sufficient and comes across as a lame attempt by the BJP to contain the matter. Failing to take the necessary actions may damage India’s diplomatic ties with the Islamic States.
This whole issue has put at stake, India’s trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which stood at $87 billion in 2020-21. It has also increased worries for NRI residing in these countries who are employed there and run their families back in India. Further, PM Modi has made multiple visits to these countries after he gained power in 2014 building cordial and friendly relationships with each. India has also signed a free trade agreement with the UAE and is in talks with the GCC for a bigger deal.
However, experts have also stated that though there is anger among the Gulf nations over the remarks, maintaining cordial relationships is equally important for both sides. Gulf nations hold major economic interests in India as they import a large amount of energy from the country. The Gulf nations also need Indians to continue living and working there. They also need to keep doing business with India. Thus, these nations will only hold protests to a certain limit.
After what has unfolded recently, one thing has become absolutely evident. It’s that India, today, stands strongly polarised. What’s even worse is that the entire world has now become pricy to this polarisation, which has led to tarnishing India’s image of being united by diversity.