CAIRO – Muslim leaders and opposition parties have reacted angrily to the incident of force-feeding an Indian Muslim man, who was observing Ramadan fasting, by an Indian lawmaker representing Ultra-nationalist Shiv Sena Party, and they have called for an investigation.
"The incident turns much controversial and inhuman as the victim of this barbaric act is a Muslim who is fasting during Ramzan [Ramadan]," India's opposition parties wrote in a letter to parliament speaker Sumitra Mahajan demanding an inquiry into the incident, Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday, July 23.
"We would request you to uphold the dignity of the House by ordering an inquiry and also direct the government for an immediate inquiry and appropriate action so that such wanton behavior is no longer repeated."
The uproar sparked after the circulation of a video that showed some Hindu MPs trying to forcibly feed a fasting Muslim canteen worker because of the "poor quality" of food.
Considering the incident a threat to their religious freedom and a blow to secularism, Muslim leaders announced, during a meeting in New Delhi, plans to meet President Pranad Mukherjee over the incident.
“The Shiv Sena has always spread communal hatred. The MP should be arrested. But what is more shocking is Parliament did not censure the MP,” asked Zafarul Islam Khan, the editor of Milli Gazette, a community magazine.
"Has Parliament’s ethics committee taken this up?"
In Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The incident has revived Muslims' fears of facing restrictions on religious freedom and being discriminated against under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
“My worry is that we will face more incidents like this under the Modi government,” said Professor Arshad Gauhar, the president of the Mumbai-based National Muslims Alliance, a think-tank.
Shiv Sena party sees itself as a guardian of traditional Hindu values and pushes a strong anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan rhetoric.
It has long claimed to champion the rights of people from western Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, over "outsiders", often backing up its stance with violence.
The right-wing party draws political sustenance from hardline Hinduism and an ultra-nationalism that includes strident opposition to Pakistan.
Describing the incident as "shocking", Congress member M I Shanavas said it is "cutting at the root of secularism. MPs who should be role models have become bad models ... the faith of minorities has been tarnished. The House should condemn it," the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
The opposition leaders have attacked the government for overlooking the humiliating incident and not providing clarifications about it.
"The government was sadly defending the act by being silent and ignoring our requests for discussing this issue," the opposition parties said in the letter.
"We are of the opinion that the reply given by the Speaker is insufficient considering the severity of the issue and sentiments of the minority community being already hurt across the nation."
Signatories to the letter include the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, NCP leader Tariq Anwar, Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav (RJD), P Karunakaran (CPI-M), NK Premachandran (RSP), ET Muhammad Basheer (IUML) and Jose K Mani (Kerala Congress-M).
Coming under fire for his anti-Muslims insult, Shiv Sena MP was forced to apologize to Muslims.
"I respect all religions. The staffer was wearing a civil dress and had no badge that could identify him. I had no idea that he was Muslim," said Vichare, a first-time Lok Sabha member from Thane.
Muslims have a long history of religious discrimination in India that has been always promoted by the right-wing parties.
Right wing Hindu groups such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena have been campaigning in central India for the last few years to stop Muslims from offering prayers in the open on Fridays and on some special occasions, when all the Muslims can’t be accommodated in mosques due to large number of participants.
Muslims’ tense relations with the Hindu nationalist started after the bloody massacre of more than 2000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
Many Muslims fear that Narendra Modi could end several schemes meant for minority community launched by the Congress government.
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