About 10 days ago, during a TV prime time show, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) national spokesperson Nupur Sharma made controversial comments about Prophet Muhammad that resulted in protests in several parts of the country and now, condemnation on a global stage.
While the outrage in India and the First Information Reports (FIRs) against Sharma were initially ignored, with middle-eastern countries summoning Indian ambassadors over the controversial remarks, the BJP finally suspended Sharma and expelled Delhi media head Naveen Jindal, who also made derogatory remarks against the Prophet.
After the "strong action", both the leaders issued statements clarifying what they had said.
So who are Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal? What’s the controversy? How has BJP handled the outrage?
Sharma, 37, is a graduate in economics from Delhi University’s Hindu College and did her LLB from the DU’s Faculty of Law. She also has a Master’s degree in law from the London School of Economics.
Sharma began her political career as a student leader and made her mark after winning the post of Delhi University Students’ Union president in 2008, while Congress’ National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) won all other posts.
Seven years later, Sharma fought against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal in the 2015 Delhi Assembly election and lost by 31,583 votes.
The now former BJP spokesperson's Twitter account is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Giriraj Singh, and Bhupendra Yadav, among other leaders of the saffron party.
Nupur Sharma's Statement After Expulsion
Following her expulsion, Sharma stated, “I have been attending TV debates for the past many days where our Mahadev was being insulted and disrespected continuously. It was mockingly being said that it is not Shivling but a fountain. The Shivling was also being ridiculed by comparing it to roadside signs and poles in Delhi.”
She added that she could not tolerate “this continuous insult” and said "some things in response to it."
Naveen Kumar Jindal: Political Journo Becomes a Politician
Meanwhile, Jindal, who was expelled for a tweet that he later deleted, is no stranger to controversies.
In April this year, the Punjab Police had registered an FIR against him for allegedly sharing on his Twitter handle a “doctored video clip” of AAP national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
Jindal had been a journalist for over two decades, having worked at Zee News, Sahara, and Punjab Kesari, among others.
He gradually levitated towards politics and the BJP. In 2003, he fought elections on a BJP ticket, and lost.
He had also authored a book called Islamic Madrase Benaqab in 2008, which supposedly exposed how Islamic madrasas operated. Jindal’s book was inaugurated by then Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief KS Sudarshan.
The right-wing leader's Twitter account is followed by several BJP leaders, including Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta, BJP MPs Manoj Tiwari and Hans Raj Hans, the office of Union minister Piyush Goyal, national spokesperson RP Singh, and former mayor Jai Prakash.
Following his expulsion, Jindal said in a tweet in Hindi, “We respect the faith of all religions but my question was against those with mindsets that spread hatred against our deities. I just asked these people a question. It does not mean that we are against any religion.”
Several FIRs have been registered against Nupur Sharma, while she has been charged under sections 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), and 505B Indian Penal Code (inducing to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility).
Meanwhile, violence broke out in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur, injuring at least six, on 3 June, during a shutdown observed by Muslims protesting against Sharma's comments against Prophet Muhammad.
The Quint has chosen to not quote the controversial statements in this article.