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India's Modi accused of anti-Muslim campaign hate speech

April 22, 2024

At a weekend rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the opposition wanted to take Hindus' money and give it to "infiltrators." The opposition Congress Party said he meant Muslims, and lodged an official complaint.

 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets during the unveiling of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party
Modi is seeking a third consecutive term as prime ministerImage: Manish Swarup/AP/picture alliance

India's opposition Congress party has lodged a formal complaint with the Election Commission over a weekend speech delivered by incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Congress claims Modi "blatantly targeted" the country's 200-million Muslims by using thinly veiled negative statements about "infiltrators," which it said was a clear reference to Muslims.

Speaking in Rajasthan on Sunday ahead of that state's turn at the ballot box, Modi claimed that a previous Congress government had promised: "Muslims must have the first right over the nation's wealth."

He went on to claim: "It will be distributed to those who have more children. It will be distributed to the infiltrators."

He then asked the largely Hindu crowd: "Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators? Would you accept that?"

Opposition: Modi's speech a 'blatant and direct violation of election laws'

Congress called the comments "divisive, objectionable and malicious," in its complaint, saying that by targeting "a particular religious community," Modi's words represented a "blatant and direct violation of our election laws."

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who spoke to reporters Monday after the filing, said, "We hope concrete action will be taken."

India, the world's most populous country, began voting last Friday in elections that will go on until June 4.

India is constitutionally secular, and its election code prohibits campaigning based on "communal feelings."

Hindu-first Modi accused of using religion as a wedge

There was no immediate response from Modi.

A spokesperson for his Bharatiya Janata Party, Gaurav Bhatia, told reporters Modi was calling "a spade a spade" and his remarks resonated with what people thought.

Modi, who has served as India's prime minister since May 2014, is seeking his third term in office.

The politician, known for prioritizing Hindu interests, is projected to win easily, but his assertive promotion of Hindu principles and superiority has drawn criticism.

In January, for instance, he inaugurated the Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh — a place of worship built on the former site of centuries-old mosque that had been razed by fanatic Hindus in 1992.

Modi has previously said he works for the betterment of all.

How Narendra Modi transformed India's image and politics

Correction, April 23, 2024: The article has been updated to correct the spelling of the Bharatiya Janata Party name.

js/lo (AFP, EEE)