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23 Apr, 2024 15:00

Indian opposition demands action against Modi for controversial remark

The prime minister’s reference to India’s largest minority as “infiltrators” is being examined 
Indian opposition demands action against Modi for controversial remark

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of ‘hate speech’ by members of the opposition over his recent comments allegedly targeting the minority Muslim community. It comes ahead of parliamentary elections which will determine whether Modi retains his office for a third term.

Speaking at an election rally in Rajasthan state on Sunday, Modi suggested that if the opposition led by the Indian National Congress party came to power, it would distribute the country’s wealth among “those who have more children.”

“Should your hard-earned money be given to infiltrators?” he asked, recalling a remark made by his predecessor Manmohan Singh of the Congress party, which is now in opposition. 

The ruling BJP has shared an old video of Singh saying “communities, particularly Muslims, must have the first claims to India’s resources” on X. However, the opposition and media outlets noted that it had been taken out of context and misinterpreted. 

Singh’s speech is from a meeting of the National Development Council in 2006. “We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources,” he said, referring to the then government’s priority areas, which included programs for the development of unprivileged communities, women, children, and minorities.

“Unemployment and inflation are at their peak in the country,” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, wrote on X (formerly Twitter), reacting to the prime minister’s statement. “[Modi] has several new techniques to divert from the issues, but the end of the business of lies is near.”

While the Election Commission has not officially commented on the issue, India Today reported on Tuesday, citing sources, that the body had received a complaint against Modi’s remark, and that it is under consideration.

Meanwhile, several petitions and letters authored by citizens’ groups have reportedly been sent to the election body seeking action against Modi over alleged election code violations, Scroll reported.

On Monday, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said it had lodged a complaint with the commissioner of police in Delhi, the nation’s capital. The party’s general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, characterized the Indian leader’s remarks as atrocious.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saket Gokhale alleged that Modi tries to "spew hatred and divide people" and urged people to lodge complaints about the speech.

There is no legal definition of hate speech in India nor internationally, the newspaper Mint noted. India’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC), enforced during election season, contains no direct guidelines against hate speech. However, it prohibits politicians from engaging in “any activity that may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.”

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