Narendra Modi accused of ‘hate speech’ after comments about Muslims

India’s Election Commission urged to take action after prime minister remarks

India’s opposition parties and human rights and citizen groups have called upon the country’s Election Commission to act “firmly” against prime minister Narendra Modi for making “objectionable” remarks described as Islamophobic at a recent public rally.

Addressing an election meeting in western Rajasthan state on Sunday, Mr Modi said the principal opposition Congress party’s manifesto proclaimed that if it came to power after the ongoing general elections, it would redistribute India’s land and wealth to the local minority Muslim community.

He further asserted that the manifesto stated the Congress would “take stock” of the gold ornaments married Hindu women traditionally wear, and hand those over too to Muslims.

The prime minister also referred to the more than 210-million Indian Muslims – comprising about 15 per cent of the country’s population of over 1.4 billion – as a community who produced too many children and as “infiltrators”.


Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been in office since 2014, has repeatedly criticised Muslims for their reportedly high birth rate, and repeatedly stoked the bogey that their burgeoning numbers would swiftly overtake the 800-odd million Hindus, who make up about 80 pert cent of India’s population.

Government data disproves this contention, as the fertility rate amongst Muslims, alongside those of all other religious groups, including Hindus, has dropped significantly in recent decades.

Mr Modi’s allusion to “infiltrators” was a reference to armed Muslim militants who have illegally entered India from neighbouring Pakistan, especially in the northern disputed Kashmir region, to fuel the insurgency raging there since 1989.

Political analysts said in demonising Muslims for electoral gain, the BJP takes its cue from the ultra-right-wing Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteer Corps, which founded the partyin 1980 as its political wing. As expressed in its charter, the goal of the RSS, which celebrates its centenary in 2025, is to safeguard Hinduism’s “purity” by insulating it from “damaging influences” such as Islam and Christianity.

Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge described Mr Modi’s comments as “hate speech”. In a post on the social media platform X, he said no prime minister in India’s history had “lowered the dignity” of the post as much as Mr Modi.

Other opposition leaders also castigated the prime minister, as did scores of concerned citizens’ groups across India.

“This is as brazen as it can get in hate speech directed against a community,” said Communist Party of India [Marxist] general secretary Sitaram Yechury. “Any failure on the part of the Election Commission to take suitable action against the PM will further undermine its credibility as an autonomous institution and lead to further vitiation of the electoral environment,” he said.

Though it has limited legal powers, the Election Commission of India has the authority to caution parties and their leaders, prohibit them from campaigning for a specific period and even initiate criminal proceedings against recidivists. The commission has so far declined to comment.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi