Hysteria created in the wake of a controversial yet seemingly innocuous comment in course of a heated live TV debate suddenly creates a furore across the Muslim world. It was just like any other day, a live heated TV debate is on in the aftermath of Gyanvapi Mosque controversy. The discovery of an alleged Shivling, which is more than obvious from its appearance although the Varanasi District Court is seized of the matter, in the Vajukhana of the mosque during a court appointed survey had put the entire nation on a pot-boiler of a sort with claims and counter-claims of the rival religious factions. As is the habit, the so called champions of secularism try to ridicule the Shivling by calling it a fountain. The same chorus of voice is repeated in the TV debate by the panellists mocking the Hindu Gods and Godesses. The provocation works. The BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma says something controversial about Prophet Muhammad quoting from their own Islamic scriptures. The debate concludes on a heated note as usual with all the warring panellists sticking to their own points of view. A good five-six days pass by when a twitter handle @AltNews and a self proclaimed fact-checker Mohammad Zubair rakes up the issue.
Making a mountain of a molehill
All the hell breaks loose thereafter. Our neighbouring State Pakistan which is on brink of disaster smells an opportunity. It lapped up the so called controversial remarks of a ruling party spokesperson to fan Islamophobic sentiments in the Gulf countries and the Islamic world portraying it as a big affront by India to Muslims across the globe. Indian Government and our foreign consulates face diplomatic outrage in Gulf countries with our envoys being summoned over the controversial references to the Islam and the Prophet. India suddenly appears to have been put on the defensive. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also did not lag behind in condemning the controversial remarks issued by an official of the ruling party of India. MEA clarifies that the offensive comments and tweets denigrating a religious personality made by certain individuals do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India.
Indian Government and our foreign consulates face diplomatic outrage in Gulf countries with our envoys being summoned over the controversial references to the Islam and the Prophet. India suddenly appears to have been put on the defensive
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party issues an official statement that it is strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP then takes disciplinary action and suspends its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma while the Delhi Unit of the Party expels its media in-charge Naveen Kumar Jindal from the party for their controversial remarks.
What is at stake for India
India in the leadership of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has developed very deep and strong relations with most of the Gulf countries which is despised by our neighbour Pakistan. The credit for the special relations that India enjoys with the leadership of Saudi Arabia and UAE goes to Modi’s charisma. In addition, Pakistan uses its Islamic brotherhood linkages every now and then to raise Kashmir issue in International forums especially in the OIC. Pakistan’s attempts to internationalise the bilateral issue of Kashmir have been thwarted to a large extent thanks to the diplomacy and special relations Modi enjoys with the leaders of these countries. Indians are the largest expatriates in the Gulf nations. An estimated 6.5 million Indians live in this region. India’s trade with Gulf nations is to the tune of $65 billion and the trade grew at a rate of 27 per cent in 2020-21 over the previous year. Therefore any boycott of Indian goods and Indian community in these nations which Pakistan is trying very hard will cause a loss of face for India.
India hits back
India let loose all its horses for damage control under the dynamic Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar. India hit back at Pakistan straightway terming it a serial violator of minority rights and thus it has no right to comment on the treatment of minorities in other nation. The backdoor diplomacy also ensured to send a subtle message to the Islamic monarchies in the Middle East where the rights of religious minorities are virtually non-existent not to act at the behest of “vested interests” an euphemism for Pakistan. India categorically termed the OIC’s concerns about abuse of Islam in India as “motivated, misleading and mischievous comments.
Lessons to learn
The same Muslim states and Arab world that have been mute spectator to Chinese assault on Islam by confiscating Korans and persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province choose to register their protests with the Indian embassies in their respective countries. This is nothing but meddling in India’s internal matter in the name of religion or ‘Ummah’, which refers to the global community of all Muslims bound together by
the ties of religion. A vibrant and plural democracy like India where all religions thrive side by side should find a way to nip this tendency in the bud when our internal debates in the country are made to become a subject to an international diplomatic blackmail. The solution lies in keeping more vigilance on the funding pattern from abroad in the name of propagation of a particular religion which draws its inspiration from outside. The only long term and durable solution ,however, lies in making India less dependent on fossil fuel for its energy needs and making our economy more robust to achieve the goal of $10 trillion economy sooner than later.