Prominent ministers from India’s ruling party have derided comments by former US President Barack Obama that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government should protect the rights of minority Muslims, accusing him of being hypocritical.
During Modi’s state visit to the United States last week, Obama told CNN the issue of the “protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India” would be worth raising in his meeting with US President Joe Biden.
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Obama said without such protection there was “a strong possibility that India at some point starts pulling apart”.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said Obama “should not forget that India is the only country which considers all the people living in the world as family members”.
“He should also think about himself as to how many Muslim countries he has attacked,” added Singh, whose statement came a day after another top Indian minister slammed the former US president for his remarks.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said she was shocked that Obama made such remarks when Modi was visiting the US aiming to deepen relations.
“He was commenting on Indian Muslims … having bombed Muslim-majority countries from Syria to Yemen … during his presidency,” Sitharaman told a press conference on Sunday.
“Why would anyone listen to any allegations from such people?”
The US Department of State has raised concerns over the treatment of Muslims and other religious minorities in India under Modi’s Hindu nationalist party. The Indian government says it treats all citizens equally.
‘We live democracy’
Biden said he discussed human rights and other democratic values with Modi during their talks at the White House.
Modi, at a press conference with Biden last week, denied any discrimination against minorities under his government.
“We have proved democracy can deliver. When I say deliver, regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender – there is absolutely no space for any discrimination [in my government],” Modi told reporters at the White House.
“Democracy is our spirit,” Modi added. “Democracy runs in our veins. We live democracy, and our ancestors have actually put words to this concept.”
The 72-year-old leader has been accused of presiding over his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by passing anti-Muslim legislation and implementing anti-Muslim policies. That includes a law on citizenship and the end of the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region, in 2019.
The United Nations human rights office described the citizenship law as “fundamentally discriminatory” for excluding Muslim migrants.
Critics have also pointed to anti-conversion legislation that challenged the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief.