New Delhi, India – A legislator from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made Islamophobic remarks and used communal slurs against a Muslim MP inside the parliament.
During a debate on Thursday on the success of India’s historic moon mission, BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri called Kunwar Danish Ali of the opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) a “terrorist” and a “pimp” among other offending remarks.
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“You extremist… I am telling you, you circumcised,” the parliamentarian from the South Delhi constituency in the Indian capital said in Hindi, using a slur often used for Muslims in India.
“I will see this mulla outside,” said Bidhuri in an apparent threat at the end of a viral video, as at least two senior BJP leaders and former union ministers laughed, sitting next to him.
Mulla is another pejorative word for Muslims in South Asia.
The remarks inside the newly inaugurated parliament building sparked angry reactions from the opposition parties and social media users who demanded strict action against Bidhuri.
Ali told Al Jazeera he was upset and hurt by the remarks, but “not shocked”.
“I want to ask Mohan Bhagwat and Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi: Is this what RSS teaches to its cadres in their schools?” he said.
The RSS refers to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the National Association of Volunteers, the ruling BJP’s far-right ideological mentor that aims to create an ethnic Hindu state in the world’s most populous country. Bhagwat heads the RSS, which boasts of millions of lifetime members in India and abroad.
Ali said if an elected legislator could be threatened inside a parliament like this, then “it speaks volumes about what an average Muslim in this country would be facing”.
He said the opposition members of parliament present during the debate stood up for him. “The MPs from Congress and TMC [Trinamool Congress], particularly the women MPs, spoke out,” he told Al Jazeera.
In a social media post, TMC parliamentarian Mahua Moitra, who was the first legislator to share the video on X, asked BJP president JP Nadda whether the right-wing party was going to act against Bidhuri.
Abusing Muslims, OBCs an integral part of BJP culture – most now see nothing wrong with it. @narendramodi has reduced Indian Muslims to living in such a state of fear in their own land that they grin & bear everything.
Sorry but I’m calling this out. Ma Kali holds my spine. pic.twitter.com/3NAqi5FWPy
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) September 22, 2023
“Abusing Muslims, OBCs an integral part of BJP’s culture,” she posted on X. OBCs refer to the constitutionally recognised “other backward castes”, who have been historically marginalised by the privileged castes in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi “has reduced Indian Muslims to living in such a state of fear in their own land that they grin and bear everything,” she wrote.
Omar Abdullah, a politician from Indian-administered Kashmir, said hate against Muslims in India “has been mainstreamed like never before”.
“How easily expletives roll off the tongue of this hateful [honourable] MP!” he posted on X. “How do Muslims who identify the BJP as their party coexist alongside this level of abject hatred?”
Congress parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh demanded Bidhuri’s suspension from the lower house of parliament.
“I have never heard such a language. This language should not be used inside or outside the parliament. This is an insult to not only Danish Ali but all of us… The beginning of a new parliament has been done by Bidhuri and his words,” Ramesh was quoted by the Hindustan Times newspaper in the parliament.
As outrage over the remarks grew inside parliament, defence minister and former BJP president Rajnath Singh issued an apology.
“I express regret if the opposition is hurt by the remarks made by the member,” he said. The remarks were also expunged from parliamentary records.
On Friday, Om Birla, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said “strict action” would be taken against Bidhuri “if such behaviour is repeated”, the Press Trust of India reported.
“Strict action if repeated”. Shame on the Speaker for refusing to take any action against the abusive BJP MP. Opposition MPs have been suspended for trivial offences & here outright abuse is condoned. https://t.co/kQQQ6BlUAs
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) September 22, 2023
Ali, the legislator, said he would file a privilege notice with the speaker to seek action against Bidhuri.
Political observers say Bidhuri’s remarks are yet another instance of anti-Muslim rhetoric and abuses used by the members and supporters of the BJP.
“Calling an elected MP a terrorist, a militant and circumcised mullah is not surprising since this is precisely the language that is already used in rallies and campaigns,” Ali Khan Mahmudabad, who teaches political science at Ashoka University near New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.