Men playing the part of enemies of the state in a ‘mock terror’ drill in the Indian state of Gujarat were made to wear the traditional Muslim hat, triggering indignation in political circles that Muslims are terrorists, local media have reported.
India Today reported on Thursday that video footage gained from a drill conducted in the town of Surat on Saturday, showed ‘terrorists’ dressed in the traditional skull cap as it is known and widely associated with the Muslim community in India.
The incident drew outrage within political ciricles. The Congress party described it as an administrative failure. Mehboob Ali Sufi Baba, Gujarat BJP’s minority cell president, said the incident only served to stereotype the Muslim community.
“This type of act sends a wrong message to the masses,” Baba said.
Responding to media reports, Pradeep Sejul, deputy superintendent of police, told journalists the incident was “avoidable” and “should not have happened”.
“Mock drills were carried out in 10-15 locations. This should not have happened; it was an avoidable mistake. We assure you that if someone deliberately made the mistake, we will take action against them,” he said.
The police in the state were preparing for two high-profile events after intelligence reports suggested they may be vulnerable to terror attacks.
The incident comes after a series of events seen to be raising communal tensions in the country.
Last week, a Hindu man posing to be a Muslim on Twitter claimed to have set off a bomb in the southern city of Bangeluru. Police however, suspect that members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India were involved in the blast that left a woman dead.
Since early December, far-right Hindu groups allied with the ruling BJP have been accused of forced conversions of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.
The events are called “homecomings,” with organisers saying they were reconverting people whose ancestors had once been Hindu.
Some of the Muslims converted in the city of Agra, though, later said they’d either been offered allurement to convert or threatened with violence if they did not.
The simmering religious issues have boiled over into parliament, with opposition lawmakers all but shutting down the legislature over charges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had done little to stop the ceremonies.
Modi has been critised for not addressing the issue head-on.