Prophet remarks row: India police book BJP’s Nupur Sharma, others

Case filed against party’s suspended spokeswoman for ‘inciting people on divisive lines’, days after her disparaging remarks during a TV debate.

Nupur Sharma
Suspended BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma [File: Saumya Khandelwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images]

Police in New Delhi say they have filed a complaint against a suspended spokeswoman for India’s governing party for “inciting people on divisive lines”, days after her disparaging remarks on Prophet Muhammad led to a diplomatic backlash.

Many Muslim-majority countries have condemned India after Nupur Sharma, who belongs to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), commented on the Prophet during a recent TV debate last week.

The Delhi Police on Thursday said they had registered two preliminary complaints – known as first information reports or FIRs – on the basis “of social media analysis against those trying to disrupt public tranquility and inciting people on divisive lines”.

“One pertains to Ms Nupur Sharma and the other against multiple social media entities,” the police said on Twitter, without specifying what posts triggered the complaint and what were the entities.

Prophet remarks
A demonstrator stomps a poster of BJP’s Nupur Sharma during a protest in Mumbai [File: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

Indian media reports said Naveen Kumar Jindal, who headed the BJP’s media cell in New Delhi before he was expelled by the party for his anti-Islam tweets, has also been booked by the police.

The others against whom FIRs have been filed include journalist Saba Naqvi and hardline Hindu priest Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati in cases related to “spreading hate” on social media, reports said.

In India, the filing of a complaint is the first process in any police investigation and is typically followed by questioning of the accused.

“Even as notices are being sent to social media intermediaries for details of those behind these accounts/entities, #DelhiPolice appeals to everyone to desist from posting anything that may disrupt social and communal harmony,” Delhi Police tweeted.

Al-Qaeda issues threats: Indian media

India on Wednesday also tightened public security in some cities after the circulation of a purported letter warning of attacks to avenge derogatory remarks about the prophet by Sharma.

Several Indian media groups shared a June 6 letter attributed to an al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS), in which threats were made to carry out suicide bombings in Indian states to “defend the honour” of the prophet.

A federal home ministry official said intelligence agencies were checking the authenticity of the threats issued by AQIS, the Reuters news agency reported.

“We have also ordered state police to ensure public gatherings or protests are not allowed as they could be targeted by the militant group,” said a senior home ministry official in New Delhi, according to Reuters.

India protest
A protester holds India’s national flag during a protest demanding Sharma’s arrest in Kolkata [File: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

Meanwhile, calls have grown for a boycott of Indian products in Gulf countries over Sharma’s remarks while a religious-cum-political party in Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami, has called for a protest march to the Indian embassy in Islamabad later on Thursday.

India’s foreign ministry said on Monday the offensive comments and tweets did not in any way reflect the government’s views.

The right-wing BJP also asked its spokespeople to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion in TV debates or on public platforms.

Outrage in India gained fresh momentum after leaders of several Muslim nations, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, demanded apologies from New Delhi and summoned diplomats to protest against the remarks.

The influential 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said in a statement that the insults came in the context of an increasingly intense atmosphere of hatred towards Islam in India and systematic harassment of Muslims.

The new controversy has become a diplomatic challenge for Modi who in recent years has cemented strong relations with energy-rich Gulf nations.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies