India’s PM Modi under fire for silence over religious incidents
India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for remaining silent about incidents deemed anti-Muslim in the past week, underscoring fears that his Hindu nationalist followers will upset religious relations in the multi-faith nation.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in May after an election campaign that mainly focused on promises to revive the economy but that also made reference to India’s majority Hindu identity.
Footage emerged this week of a radical Hindu party lawmaker trying to force food into the mouth of a Muslim caterer. Separately, a BJP politician questioned the national identity of an Indian Muslim tennis star, while an ally of the prime minister said India could become a Hindu nation under Modi.
Several commentators said Modi’s failure to speak out about the incidents risked encouraging aggressive behavior by fringe elements of his party and related organizations.
“The prime minister needs to come out strongly against such comments in order to reassure the minorities that their apprehensions about the intent of his regime are misplaced … Silence on his part will only encourage such elements,” The Times of India said in an editorial.
India has a dark history of religious violence, especially between the Hindu majority and Muslims, who account for more than 150 million people, making India the world’s third most populous Muslim nation.