Amid the chorus of criticism from the Islamic world against the remarks made by now suspended or expelled BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal – with Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issuing statements – India rejected the OIC’s comments as “unwarranted and narrow-minded” and said Pakistan’s criticism was ironical, given its own record with minorities.
However, there iss a growing chorus of domestic voices that have attacked the ruling BJP-led government over its handling of the issue.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen head and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi – who had earlier lodged a complaint that led to an FIR against Nupur Sharma as well as former BJP leader Qavi Abbasi of the Inquilab Party for allegedly threatening Sharma – said the suspension was a “sham.”
Owaisi also questioned the trigger for the suspension, noting the absence of action when domestic Muslims were outraged about the remarks.
“Twenty crore Indian Muslims’ religious beliefs were insulted. Rather than addressing their concerns, Modi et al were more afraid of a foreign backlash. Very unfortunate,” he tweeted.
This sentiment was echoed by Indian National Congress Spokesperson Pawan Khera, who took to Twitter to say, "Bharatiya Janata Party makes a mistake, and India should apologise? Unacceptable."
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said, “The placatory expulsion of two key members and spokespersons of the BJP from its primary membership, done obviously under duress of threats from external powers, exposes the much touted muscular posturing and positioning of the BJP and the Modi Government. Is the BJP sincere in course correcting? Is the BJP trying to atone for its immeasurable sins or is it more chameleon-like posturing?”
“Will the mob-lynching of our Constitutional ethos cease? Is repentance by the BJP and its leadership possible? A short statement by the BJP is unlikely to heal the millions of wounds inflicted on the ethos of Indianness,” Surjewala said.
Arguing that the “intrinsic character of the BJP and the Modi Government is now founded upon religious violence, divisive conservatism and nurturing hatred to secure vote-bank politics”, he said “the truth is that the BJP has pushed India into a dark age of religious polarisation to subserve its parochial political agenda in the short term”.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday said it was not domestic criticism but international backlash that pushed the BJP to take action against its functionaries for their offensive remarks against Prophet Mohammed.
The BJP on Sunday suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled the party's Delhi unit media head Naveen Jindal for their controversial remarks following widespread anger in several Gulf countries.
"Mrs Nupur Sharma and Mr Naveen Kumar were not the original creators of the Islamophobia. Remember, they were trying to more loyal than the king," Chidambaram said on Twitter.
"Domestic criticism did not impel the BJP to act against the two spokespersons. It was only the international backlash that pushed the BJP to take action," the former union minister said.
India has often responded sharply to any criticism from the OIC, as it feels that much of it is orchestrated by Pakistan, thus the thinly veiled reference to the “vested interests” in its response.
Most recently, India had reacted similarly when the OIC had called on the UN Human Rights Council to take “necessary measures” in the controversy around female Muslim students not being allowed to wear hijab in certain schools and colleges in Karnataka in February.