Bilawal asks Indians to protest against hatred, not him
NEW YORK/NEW DELHI: As the ruling BJP organised demonstrations in various parts of India to protest Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s remarks about the Indian prime minister, the Pakistani foreign minister urged the Narendra Modi-led party on Saturday to protest against unrelenting discrimination and hatred that Indian Muslims face in their own country, instead of protesting against him.
At a news conference inside the UN earlier this week, Mr Bhutto-Zardari had described Mr Modi as “the butcher of Gujarat,” adding that instead of being punished for the 2002 massacre of over 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat, he was made the prime minister.
He was responding to his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar’s remarks who, for two days in a row, had called Pakistan “the host of Osama bin Laden” and the “perpetrator of terrorism.”
“My comments were based in history, and it is difficult to distort history,” said Mr Bhutto-Zardari when asked about the BJP’s protests against him. “You cannot rewrite history to suit your likes and dislikes.”
FO terms India’s remarks ‘reflection of Delhi’s growing frustration’; BJP holds protests
Talking to the Pakistani media in New York, he said: “The history is a witness to the role the current Indian prime minister played in Gujarat. No matter how hard the BJP or RSS protests, they cannot distort history.”
The foreign minister said he did not coin the term “Butcher of Gujarat, Indian citizens gave this title to him (Modi). So, no matter how much you protest, you cannot change facts.”
“They must also condemn the Muslim genocide in Gujarat, and condemn the way Muslims in India, who are the largest minority in the world, are treated. I wish... they had also protested for their own Muslim citizens — who are now the victims of discrimination, hatred — instead of targeting me.”
He said instead of trying to curb this hatred, “their own government instigates people against Indian Muslims”.
The FM said if the purpose of these protests was to scare Pakistan, it would not work. “We are not afraid of RSS. We are not afraid of Mr Modi. We are not afraid of the BJP. If they want to protest, they should.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office rejected the statement by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), reported PPI.
Responding to media queries about Friday’s statement by the Indian MEA, FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch in a statement said that the MEA’s statement is also a reflection of India’s growing frustration over its failure in maligning and isolating Pakistan.
She said after being unable to prevent Pakistan’s exit from FATF grey list and international recognition of Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts, India is desperately using international platforms to advance its agenda to defame and target Pakistan.
In Uttar Pradesh, the agitation against Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s remarks started on Friday as BJP state president Bhupendra Singh Chaudhary issued a statement, calling his remarks “indecent” and “shameful”.
BJP workers staged a protest in Mathura on Friday and burnt an effigy of the foreign minister.
In Lucknow, BJP workers gathered at the Atal Chowk and started a march, shouting slogans against the FM.
In Delhi, BJP workers protested outside the Pakistan Embassy. Their leaders in Pune led by Maharashtra party chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule held a protest at Tilak Chowk and raised anti-Pakistan slogans.
Mr Bawankule told PTI: “We will not tolerate any statement against our prime minister. PM Narendra Modi is the one who is striving hard to save our Hindu religion, and Pakistan is unable to see it. That is why they are making such statements.”
Similar protests were also held in Mumbai, Karnataka, Telangana, Jammu and Bhubhaneswar.
Our correspondent in New Delhi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2022