BJP's anti-Islam tirade: Vijayan and Satheesan silent as Governor plays down issue

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan

It could be that political leaders in Kerala have still not got over the Thrikkakara hangover. Neither Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan nor Opposition Leader V D Satheesan has uttered a word against the offensive anti-Muslim comments made by BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal.

Worse, the two top leaders of Kerala's biggest parties, the CPM and the Congress, have remained silent about Governor Arif Mohammad Khan's attempts to play down these comments that has the entire Muslim world up in arms against India. Early on Monday, Khan said these remarks, which referred to Islam in the most disparaging manner, came in the “heat of the moment” during TV debates.

During his first term, Pinarayi Vijayan had seemed alert to communal wrongs. The political aggression he had shown in backing the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, for instance, had catapulted him to popularity at the national stage. This fervour looks dormant now. Incidentally, even the CPM has not made any official comment on the offensive remarks made by BJP leaders.

The Governor had even said that India need not apologise for the remarks, and Kerala's biggest leaders had not said a word in response yet. Khan went on to say that more attention should be paid to what the Prime Minister and the RSS chief were repeatedly saying. “We want our tradition of inclusiveness to be strengthened. Nobody is to be excluded,” he said.

The Muslim world, however, is fuming. Qatar, Kuwait and Iran have already summoned Indian ambassadors and demanded a public apology from India for the comments made by BJP spoksepersons against Prophet Mohammad. At least five Arab nations have lodged official protets against India for comments that have been termed Islamophobic. Pakistan and Afghanistan, too, have reacted sharply. There are even reports that big stores in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain are removing Indian products from their shelves.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the collective voice of the Muslim world, said in its latest tweet: “These cases of defamation are part of a growing spate of hatred and defamation of Islam in India.” Kerala would be one of the worst affected if the OIC moves to impose trade or economic sanctions against India.

It is not as if all leaders worth their salt are silent. “BJP/RSS are repeatedly damaging the secular reputation of India internally and now we are forced to clarify to our friendly nations regarding the venom that is being spewed by their spokesperson. BJP should resist themselves from acts that would make Indians hang their heads in shame,” former Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said in a tweet. Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty said that the BJP, through the comments of its spokespersons, had distorted the secular face of India.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, as usual, was one of the first leaders to slam the BJP. “Object lesson: Those who express bigotry at home should be aware of the consequences abroad. India has enjoyed a proud standing in the world, which is being undermined by the irresponsibility of the communal-minded who have been allowed free rein for too long by the ruling party,” he tweeted on June 5.

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