In what could be termed the first serious action against its prominent leaders since BJP came to power in 2014, the party expelled two of its spokesperson for making controversial remarks against the Prophet Mohammad and Muslims.
On Sunday (June 5), the BJP expelled Navin Kumar Jindal, head of the media cell of its Delhi unit, for his inflammatory tweets about the Prophet and suspended Nupur Sharma, one of its national spokespersons, for her anti-Islam statements on a television debate in May.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the ruling party said it is against any ideology that insults or demeans any sect or religion.
"The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy…During the thousands of years of the history of India, every religion has blossomed and flourished. The Bharatiya Janata Party respects all religions," it said.
The controversy rose amid Vice President Venkaiah Naidu's high-profile tour of Qatar along with Indian business leaders to boost trade.
Here are the top developments so far:
- Several middle eastern countries, including Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have called out for a boycott of Indian products from their superstores on social media. Several stores have reportedly removed Indian products after the row.
- According to a foreign ministry statement, Saudi Arabia described Nupur Sharma's comments as "insulting" and called for "respect for beliefs and religions". Qatar, Iran and Kuwait summoned the Indian envoy amid widespread calls on social media to boycott Indian goods in the Gulf, NDTV reported.
- The Indian envoy in Doha was summoned to the foreign ministry and handed an official protest letter which said, "Qatar is expecting a public apology and immediate condemnation of these remarks from the government of India".
- Neighbouring countries Kuwait summoned India's ambassador and demanded a "public apology for these derogatory statements, the continuation of which would constitute a punishment or deterrent measure to increase hatred and extremism and undermine the elements of moderation".
- India has said that the remarks were "views of fringe elements" and did not reflect the government's opinion. The government also highlighted that the ruling BJP had taken action against the leaders. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain welcomed the decision.
- Both the leaders have apologised for the remarks after the ruling party took action. "I could not tolerate the repeated insults made against Lord Shiva and I said some things in rage. I take back my words if they have hurt anyone's religious sentiments," Nupur Sharma said, according to Hindustan Times.
- "We respect the faith of all religions but the question was only from those mindsets who spread hatred by using indecent comments on our deities. I just asked a question. It does not mean that we are against any religion," Naveen Jindal said in a tweet. The trouble spiked in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.
- Over 40 people were injured in Kanpur when two groups clashed after Friday prayers. The police had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the crowd and prevent further violence.
- The Congress party slammed the BJP statement, saying it is "nothing but a blatantly counterfeit pretence, which is evidently farce and another shame attempt at damage control". Taking to his Twitter handle, Congress leader S Shashi Tharoor tagged a post which said that supermarkets in Gulf countries removed Indian products after insulting remarks were made by BJP leaders.
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