India's Congress seeks action against Modi for comments about Muslims

The prime minister referred to Muslims as "infiltrators" during a campaign speech

By Reuters

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Narendra Modi speaks during an election campaign rally in Meerut. — Reuters file
Narendra Modi speaks during an election campaign rally in Meerut. — Reuters file

Published: Mon 22 Apr 2024, 7:30 PM

India's main opposition Congress party petitioned the Election Commission on Monday to act against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making what it said were "deeply objectionable" comments about Muslims that violated election laws.

Modi, who is seeking a rare third consecutive term, referred to Muslims as "infiltrators" during a campaign speech on Sunday, drawing widespread criticism from opposition groups.


In his speech, Modi said the Congress election manifesto promised to confiscate and redistribute the wealth of Indians, which it denies.

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Modi said if the party adhered to remarks in 2006 of then Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that minority Muslims should have the "first claim on resources" to share in the fruits of development, then wealth would be distributed to "infiltrators" and those who have "more children".

Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates often refer to militants illegally crossing the border from Pakistan as infiltrators.

They have also criticised Muslims for their higher birth rates and invoked fears that India's Muslim population would overtake that of its majority Hindus.

India's estimated 200 million Muslims make up the world's third-largest Muslim population. India has a population of 1.42 billion people.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi's "deeply objectionable" statement violated sections of the law that prohibit candidates from asking people to vote or refrain from voting for anyone on the grounds of "religion", "community" or "religious symbols".

"We have asked the Election Commission to state that this is the position in law," Singhvi told reporters, urging it to act against Modi in the same way it would against anyone else accused of similar offences.

The Election Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Modi's government has repeatedly been accused of discrimination against Muslims, with civil society, opposition groups, and some foreign governments raising concerns over decisions they say are aimed at fanning discrimination and keeping the BJP in power.

The government has denied all accusations, and Modi has said he works for the betterment of all.

Under election laws, the Election Commission can ask a party or its leader to respond to a complaint, issue advisories cautioning them or prohibit them from campaigning for a specified period, or launch a criminal case against repeat offenders. India's seven-week election began on April 19 and will end on June 1, with results due on June 4.

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