(This story originally appeared in
on Jun 6, 2022)
NEW DELHI: BJP
on Sunday expelled Navin Kumar Jindal, head of the media cell of its Delhi unit, and suspended one of its national spokespersons Nupur Sharma
for making controversial remarks about Prophet Muhammad.
“BJP respects all religions. It strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion,” the party said, distancing itself from the statements of its two spokespersons that sparked protests in different parts of the country as well as the Arab world.
BJP sources told TOI action was taken at the instance of the “top tier” leadership because the remarks of Jindal and Sharma were seen as at odds with the party’s focus on development and the PM’s “sabka saath, sabka vikas” agenda. The party brass was reportedly annoyed with the controversy breaking out amid the celebrations of the third anniversary of the Modi government’s second term at the Centre.
BJP has differentiated between Jindal, who has been tossed out of the party, and Sharma by saying that not only the former’s remarks were offensive, he compounded the error by repeating it amid signs of the leadership’s displeasure.
Sharma has explained she made the statement concerned in a TV debate over the discovery of a ‘shivling’ at Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque in which derogatory remarks were made toward Lord Shiva. "I could not tolerate this continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev and said some things in response to it. If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings," she said.
Soon after BJP announced its action, Sharma, who has received threats, appealed to people not to disclose her address. Police have also raised security for her. Jindal also said that he has received a series of threats.
The member secretary of BJP’s central disciplinary committee, Om Pathak, wrote to Nupur Sharma: "You have expressed views contrary to the party position on various matters, which is in clear violation of Rule 10 (a) of the constitution of the BJP... I have been directed to convey to you that pending further inquiry, you are suspended from the party and from your responsibilities/assignments if any, with immediate effect."
"Party top brass has made it clear that such a behaviour in the public domain, which hurts the party’s image and hampers its development agenda will not be acceptable," a senior leader said, adding that party cadre must unwaveringly stick to the PM’s agenda on development.
The action sparked a wave of indignant protests from Hindutva supporters on social media with saffron activists denouncing it as surrender and highlighting Qatar giving citizenship to late M F Hussain who had to leave the country because of protests over the depiction of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in his paintings.
Earlier, the remarks of Sharma and Jindal sparked unrest, with big mobs protesting against the remarks in question and resorting to violence during the visit of President R N Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi
to Kanpur on Friday. Thirty-six people including the key accused have been arrested and a case filed against over 1,500 people in connection with the violence.
BJP has formally distanced itself from the remark through a statement issued by general secretary Arun Singh. "During the thousands of years of history of India, every religion has blossomed and flourished. The BJP respects all religions. The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion," Singh said.
India’s Constitution gives the right to every citizen to practise any religion of his or her choice and to honour and respect every religion, he said. "As India celebrates the 75th year of its Independence, we are committed to making India a great country where all are equal and everyone lives with dignity, where all are committed to India’s unity and integrity, where all enjoy the fruits of growth and development," the BJP leader said.
National Conference leader and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah, however, questioned the sincerity of BJP, saying the party’s hand was forced by the reaction of the Arab world. "There is a context to the BJP suddenly waking up to denounce "insult to any religious personalities of any religion" and it has nothing to do with having offended the sentiments of lakhs of Muslims in India. This apology of a statement is aimed at an international audience," Abdullah said, with a clip of a new report as per which there was a wave of anger across the Arab countries over Sharma’s remarks.
Jamiat Ulama i Hind has promptly welcomed the action saying that it was "necessary" for maintaining law and order in the country and demanded that law enforcement agencies took action against the two spokespersons. Watch BJP suspends Nupur Sharma, Naveen Jindal after objectionable comments on Prophet Muhammad