NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi denied on Wednesday responsibility for the lynching of a Muslim man accused of eating beef in Dadri, a village near Delhi, though he said it was a regrettable incident.

Mr Modi also regretted the forced cancellation of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai but said his government had nothing to do with it.

The neo-fascist Shiv Sena is a close ally of Modi’s ruling coalition. It was his Hindutva supporters that are charged with the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq, a 50-year-old blacksmith.

In an interview to Kolkata-based Bangla language newspaper Anand Bazaar Patrika, Mr Modi termed the Dadri incident ‘dukhad’ (unfortunate) and questioned the logic behind blaming his government for the incident.

He said the Dadri incident and the banning of Pakistani singer’s concerts were regrettable, but asked if “is it fair to blame the Centre?”

Mohammad Akhlaq was beaten to death by a Hindutva mob, which accused him of having stored and consumed beef. Several members of Mr Modi’s party are among the suspects in the case.

“The BJP had always practised secularism in any situation where there have been differences; the party has never supported anyone involved in such incidents,” he said.

By accusing the BJP, “isn’t the opposition itself guilty of polarising the atmosphere?”

Stepping up its ante against the government after Mr Modi termed “unfortunate” the cancellation of Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena invoked the prime minister’s past saying he “is known and respected due to Godhra and Ahmedabad”. Both cities in Gujarat have become symbols of anti-Muslim pogroms during Mr Modi’s tenure as chief minister.

“If the Prime Minister has made such a statement (on Ghulam Ali), it is unfortunate,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut said.

“The world knows Narendra Modi due to Godhra and Ahmedabad and we respect him for the same reason. If the same Narendra Modi has called the controversy surrounding Ghulam Ali and (former Pakistan minister) Khurshid Kasuri unfortunate, then it is indeed unfortunate for all of us,” he said.

Accusing Mr Modi of selective amnesia and not taking appropriate action in the wake of the Dadri lynching, the Congress party said that it was not posturing that was needed but concrete action.

“Narendra Modi is suffering from selective amnesia. He has forgotten that he is the prime minister of entire country and safety and protecting the life of 125 crore citizens of India is his responsibility,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

“Will the prime minister tell the nation what action did he take against Mahesh Sharma, his Minister? What action did he take against another minister Sanjeev Balyan? What action did he take against the BJP leaders of the ilk Sangeet Som as also Sadhvi Prachi and others?” Mr Surjewala asked.

Mr Surjewala said Mr Modi selectively “forgets that the BJP government is in power in Maharashtra where Ghulam Ali’s concert was cancelled and Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face was smeared with black paint”.

Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav also criticised Mr Modi saying that though he was quick to speak on the victories of the cricket team, he was speaking on the Dadri incident after much delay.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2015

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