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ICC Note: Members of the ruling BJP government in India are continuing to use religiously polarizing rhetoric for political gain. In a recent speech, BJP MP Vinay Katiyar made a series of provocative statements targeting the country’s Muslim community. Other BJP leaders have made similar statements against Christians demanding they either convert to Hinduism or leave the country so that India can become a Hindu nation. It is this extreme nationalism that drives much of the persecution faced by religious minorities in India.

02/08/2018 India (Asia Times) – “Muslims should not stay in India,” if a lawmaker in India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is to be believed. This remark from member of Parliament Vinay Katiyar is the latest in a series of provocative statements targeting the nation’s Muslim minority. The lack of any public rebuke from Prime Minister Narendra Modi has added credence to these statements, say political opponents

Katiyar was quoted by ANI as saying, “Why do the Muslim need to stay in this country when a partition was created based on [the religions of the] population? They were given a separate piece of land. So they should go to Pakistan or Bangladesh; what purpose do they have here?”

Katiyar’s remarks followed a comment from his parliamentarian colleague Asaduddin Owaisi, who is also the president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Owaisi demanded that a law be created to punish people who call Indian Muslims “Pakistanis,” which he argued was an insult to them.

Just before the latest controversy, Katiyar, a senior BJP member, got into hot water by saying that the Taj Mahal should become the Tejo Mahal, a temple for the Hindu god Shiva. He is the third senior BJP member to spawn the theory that the iconic Taj Mahal was actually a Shiva temple built by a Hindu king and later annexed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It was another attempt to demonize the Mughal era as inimical to the majority Hindus.

Katiyar’s comments seem to be part of a deliberate campaign to keep voters polarized ahead of next year’s general elections. There is growing violence against religious minorities, especially Muslims. Several top BJP personnel have repeatedly described Muslims as non-Indian along with making the Hindu religion central to Indian identity.

Portraying and treating Muslims as the “other” in India is quite an old ploy and forms the crux of the BJP, which grew out of the Hindu-nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

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