India should focus on protecting minorities from 'saffron terror', not indulge in propaganda: FO

Updated January 06, 2020

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The Foreign Office (FO) on Monday called on India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to protect India's minorities from "Saffron terror" while rejecting Indian propaganda regarding the treatment of minorities in Pakistan. — AFP/File
The Foreign Office (FO) on Monday called on India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to protect India's minorities from "Saffron terror" while rejecting Indian propaganda regarding the treatment of minorities in Pakistan. — AFP/File

The Foreign Office on Monday called on India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to protect its minorities from "saffron terror" while rejecting Indian propaganda regarding the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

In a sternly worded statement, the FO said: "The RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]-inspired BJP government has absolutely no credentials even to pretend that it is a protector of minorities.

"Those who are responsible for the desecration and demolition of the Babri mosque, massive killings of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, frequent incidents of mob lynching, and repeated hate crimes against minorities, simply have no feet to stand on.

"Rather than feigning any dishonest concern for minorities elsewhere, the BJP government would do better by focusing on the ongoing human tragedy at home and protecting India’s minorities from 'saffron terror'," the statement read.

The FO also rejected Indian propaganda regarding the treatment of minorities in Pakistan. It said the BJP government was using incidents of alleged persecution of minorities in Pakistan to divert attention from the situation in occupied Kashmir and discrimination against minorities within India.

On Friday, two groups had an altercation outside the Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib in Punjab over a minor issue, but an individual tried to give a communal colour to the dispute. It was foiled by the timely involvement of the city administration and arrest of the perpetrators.

Reports said four customers while having tea at Zaman’s stall in front of Gurdwara Janam Asthan started a conversation about his nephew, Muhammad Ehsaan, who came into the limelight a few months ago after being accused of forcing a Sikh girl to convert in order to marry her.

Zaman reportedly reacted with anger, which led to a confrontation between two groups. A small crowd gathered to raise slogans. A team of Nankana Sahib police had to intervene in order to control the situation.

Following the incident, the FO had clarified that it was the result of an "altercation between two Muslim groups" and that it should not be portrayed as a communal issue.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had also commented on the incident saying it went against his "vision and will find zero tolerance and protection from the government including police and judiciary".

Taking to Twitter on Sunday, the prime minister highlighted that there was a distinct difference between the incident that occurred in Nankana Sahib and the continued attacks on Muslims across India.

In a separate incident, the bullet-riddled body of a 28-year-old Sikh man was found in Peshawar on Sunday. Police have registered a case and started an investigation into the incident.

The victim's brother Harmeet Singh had appealed to news outlets and the people of Pakistan to highlight the incident so that his brother's murderers could be brought to justice.

"We do not have a personal enmity with anyone. Like other cases in the country, this will also be included among those conducted by na maloom afraad [unidentified assailants]," he said.

In today's statement, the FO said: "The BJP government's mischievous portrayal of isolated law and order incidents in Peshawar and Nankana Sahib as alleged 'persecution' of minorities is part of its smear campaign against Pakistan and a desperate attempt to divert attention from the ongoing state terrorism in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K) and systematic discrimination against minorities in India.

"Pakistan completely rejects these fabrications, which will in no way shield the BJP government from opprobrium by the international community on its illegal actions in IOJ&K and the adverse fallout of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC)."

The FO said Pakistan "attaches the highest respect and sanctity" to places of worship including those belonging to Sikhs.

"We categorically reject Indian allegations regarding any 'attack' and 'desecration' at the holy Gurdwara Nankana Sahib.

"These blatant lies are yet another illustration of the quintessential RSS-BJP propaganda drive, which will fail."

The FO said the Sikh community around the globe is aware of the importance that Prime Minister Imran's government attaches to minorities and their places of worship, adding that the November 9, 2019, opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was a "clear manifestation" of the premier's vision of this.

"Indian attempts to politicise the tragic killing of a Pakistani Sikh youth are also mischievous and reprehensible," the FO said. It said a case had immediately been registered as the crime was reported and a high-powered committee was constituted to investigate the matter.

"The law will take its course and those responsible will be brought to justice."

'This is what happens when you empower [a] fascist ideology,' says FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned an attack on teachers and students at India's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Sunday.

"[The] chilling attack on students and teachers at JNU yesterday is yet another reminder of growing intolerance in India," the foreign minister said in a tweet.

"Campuses in India now face unchecked wrath of RSS mobs while the police collude with their insanity. This is what happens when you empower [a] fascist ideology," Qureshi added.

On Sunday, masked men armed with iron rods and hammers raided hostels of JNU and beat up students and teachers aligned with the left, reports said.

News portals carried pictures of profusely bleeding Aishe Ghosh, the leftist president of the JNU students union (JNUSU). TV grabs showed masked men roaming freely on the campus, and students said the police and security guards refused to respond to calls for help.

Reports said the masked men belonged to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), students wing of the Hindu fascist RSS.

In recent months, India has received criticism for the treatment of Muslims in the country.

Tens of thousands of people protested across India on Friday against a citizenship law passed by the Hindu nationalist government that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

Protests have rocked India since legislation was passed in December of last year that eases the way for religious minorities from three Muslim-majority neighbouring nations to gain Indian citizenship, but not if they are Muslim.

Critics say the law is a precursor to a national register of citizens that many among India’s Muslims fear will leave them stateless. Many poor Indians do not have documents to prove their nationality.

Many Muslims in India say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens since Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed to power in 2014.

Several cities perceived to have Islamic-sounding names have been renamed, while some school textbooks have been altered to downplay Muslims' contributions to India.

In August of last year, Modi's administration rescinded the partial autonomy of Muslim-majority occupied Kashmir and split it into two. The lockdown imposed in occupied Kashmir on August 5, 2019, by the Indian government has crossed 150 days, with the security and communication clampdown now in its fifth month.