Nupur Sharma’s Prophet Remark: Can Diplomatic Disaster Silence Hate at Home?
Why are top BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal being called ‘fringe elements’?
Video Producer: Mayank Chawla
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam, Mohd. Irshad Alam
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… It just got hit by Hurricane Nupur. On 26 May, Nupur Sharma, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s national spokesperson, insulted Prophet Muhammad on a news channel. Muslims in India were outraged. But as expected, nothing happened.
On 1 June Naveen Kumar Jindal, BJP’s Delhi media head also insulted Prophet Muhammad in a tweet. Again, nothing happened. Bigotry and anti-Muslim hate from some prominent BJP and Hindutva leaders are now common. Little or no action being taken against them is also common.
16 Countries Censure BJP Over Insult of Prophet Muhammad
From 4 June onwards, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Bahrain, Libya, Jordan, Maldives, even Pakistan, even the Taliban, Turkey, Malaysia, and country after country protested. Using the strongest of words.
India’s ambassadors were hauled in and angry protests were registered. Social media was full of calls to boycott Indian goods and businesses in West Asia.
On 5 June, 10 days after her comment, Nupur Sharma was suspended and Jindal was expelled from the BJP. But it was too late. Hurricane Nupur had already become one of India’s worst diplomatic disasters ever. Yeh Jo India Hai Na… It has several questions about the drama we have all seen in the last few days.
Why this gap of 10 days between Nupur Sharma’s comments and her suspension?
The answer to that, sadly, is simple. Because the sentiments of our crores of Muslim citizens didn’t matter to us. We only responded when Muslim nations, when Muslims abroad, were outraged. When our image abroad took a beating. When the diplomatic mess began to unfold. When the prospect of political and economic consequences became real.
But should this have mattered more than the feelings of our citizens? This tweet by Farhan Akhtar sums up the disappointment of India’s Muslims. After Nupur Sharma ‘withdrew her statement,’ he said, "A forced apology is never from the heart."
Why did the BJP punish Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal?
Because the Middle East matters. A lot. Sixty percent of India’s oil comes from West Asia. Almost 1 crore Indians live and work in the Gulf – labourers, nurses, drivers, technicians, doctors, bankers, business persons – and they send roughly $55 billion back to India every year. It’s a huge part of India’s economy.
The UAE is India’s third biggest trade partner, after the United States and China. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are at number 4 and 5. Our trade with these three countries, all of whom we have just antagonised, stands at $150 billion annually.
But strangely, the BJP’s spokespersons either didn’t know all this or didn’t care that someday there would be a price to pay for all the bigotry and hate that plays out daily on news channels and social media. Even now, the action against Nupur Sharma and Jindal appears to be more of a tactic, a strategic retreat to diffuse the outrage, and not an admission that something is badly wrong with our social and political fabric.
Why are Indian ambassadors across the Gulf cleaning up the mess when it was two BJP spokespersons who insulted Prophet Muhammad?
Unfortunately, these are valid questions. India’s foreign policy in the Middle East, and our excellent relations with the Gulf countries, are the result of decades of careful diplomacy, cultivating economic relations, and embracing one another culturally.
The prime minister himself has worked hard at this. So, is it fair that a BJP spokesperson should be able to demolish all those years of ‘Rishton ki Jama Poonji’? It is not. But it has happened. And it will take years to repair.
Why did India’s ambassador to Qatar say that Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal’s remarks were the "views of fringe elements"?
Can the BJP’s national spokesperson and Delhi BJP’s media head be called fringe elements? Nupur Sharma’s Twitter account is followed by Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, and other top leaders. Naveen Kumar Jindal is followed by all top Delhi BJP leaders.
Also, what does ‘national spokesperson’ mean? It means that Nupur Sharma speaks for the BJP, at the national level. Her thoughts, her words, are the BJP’s thoughts and words. Plain and simple. So, no, she and Jindal were not fringe elements.
Fringe or non-fringe, is there any plan to deal with hate speech in India?
If there is a plan, we don’t see it. If anything, fringe waale hon ya party spokespersons… news channels hon ya election speeches ya Dharam Sansads.. the shrillness, the frequency, the crassness of hate speeches across India has only risen in recent months. Calls for the killing of Muslims, calls for the rape of Muslim women and calls to ignore the law of the land are heard repeatedly.
From bulldozer raj to anti-conversion laws, which we believe are against the Constitution, with chief ministers almost competing on devising means to harass minorities – hate is only growing. And, as we have now seen, the world is taking note. While we may hair-split ke kaun fringe element hai, kaun non-fringe hai.
The world does not see the difference between the bigotry of Yati Narsinghanand and Nupur Sharma. Even as the BJP censured Nupur Sharma… in true fringe element spirit, Yati Narsinghanand has defended Sharma and even accused India’s leaders of being scared and of being bought out by Islamic nations. The fact that he remains free despite multiple hate speech FIRs, despite repeatedly, publicly taunting the BJP leadership, exposes how tolerant we are of hate.
Will Spokespersons Continue To Target Indian Muslims?
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… Here, as long as demonising Muslims remains a key part of the election strategy – Hindu khatre mein hai, and it's all due to the Muslims – we will continue to see party spokespersons targeting India’s Muslims in multiple ways.
The thought process seems to be – If this wins us elections, then it is worth it. Yes, the Muslim world may mind. But that’s collateral damage, jisse hum kissi tarah se, sambhal lenge. Even now, I fear that is the cynical plan. And, don’t be surprised if Nupur Sharma is back on TV in just a few months.
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