Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Modi is accused of using hate speech for calling Muslims 'infiltrators' at an Indian election rally

News

Modi is accused of using hate speech for calling Muslims 'infiltrators' at an Indian election rally
News

News

Modi is accused of using hate speech for calling Muslims 'infiltrators' at an Indian election rally

2024-04-23 19:22 Last Updated At:19:31

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's main opposition party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using hate speech after he called Muslims “infiltrators" — some of his most incendiary rhetoric about the minority faith, days after the country began its weekslong general election.

The remarks at a campaign rally Sunday drew fierce criticism that Modi was peddling anti-Muslim tropes. The Congress party filed a complaint Monday with the Election Commission of India, alleging he broke rules that bar candidates from engaging in any activity that aggravates religious tensions.

Critics of the prime minister — an avowed Hindu nationalist — say India’s tradition of diversity and secularism has come under attack since his Bharatiya Janata Party won power a decade ago. They accuse the party of fostering religious intolerance and sometimes even violence. The party denies the accusation and says its policies benefit all Indians.

At a rally in the state of Rajasthan, Modi said that when the Congress party was in government, “they said Muslims have the first right over the country’s resources.” If it returns to power, the party “will gather all your wealth and distribute it among those who have more children,” he said as the crowd applauded.

“They will distribute it among infiltrators,” he continued, saying, “Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators?”

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress party’s president, described the prime minister's comments as “hate speech” and party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi called them “deeply, deeply objectionable.”

The party sought action from the election commission, whose code of conduct forbids candidates from appealing “to caste or communal feelings” to secure votes. The first votes were cast Friday in the six-week election, which Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP are expected to win, according to most surveys. The results come out on June 4.

Asaduddin Owaidi, a Muslim lawmaker and president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen party, said on Sunday: “Since 2002 till this day, the only Modi guarantee has been to abuse Muslims and get votes.”

While there have long been tensions between India's majority Hindu community and Muslims, rights groups say that attacks against minorities have become more brazen under Modi.

Muslims have been lynched by Hindu mobs over allegations of eating beef or smuggling cows, an animal considered holy to Hindus. Muslim businesses have been boycotted, their homes and businesses have been bulldozed and places of worship set on fire. There have been open calls for their genocide.

Modi’s remarks referred to a 2006 statement by then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress party. Singh said that India’s lower castes, tribes, women and, “in particular the Muslim minority” deserved to share in the country’s development equally.

“They must have the first claim on resources,” Singh said. A day later, his office clarified that Singh was referring to all of the disadvantaged groups.

In its petition to the election commission, the Congress party said that Modi and the BJP have repeatedly used religion and religious symbols and sentiments in their election campaign with impunity. “These actions have been further bolstered by the commission’s inaction in penalizing the prime minister and the BJP for their blatant violations of electoral laws,” it said.

“In the history of India, no prime minister has lowered the dignity of his post as much as Modi has,” Kharge, Congress' president, wrote on social media platform X.

The commission can issue warnings and suspend candidates for a certain amount of time over violations of the code of conduct.

“We decline comment,” a spokesperson for the commission told the Press Trust of India news agency on Monday.

In his speech, Modi also repeated a Hindu nationalist trope that Muslims were overtaking the Hindu population by having more children. Hindus make up 80% of India's 1.4 billion people, while the country's 200 million Muslims are 14%. Official data shows that fertility rates among Muslims have dropped the fastest among religious groups in recent decades, from 4.4 in 1992-93 to 2.3 between 2019-21, just higher than Hindus at 1.94.

Modi’s BJP has previously referred to Muslims as infiltrators and cast them as illegal migrants who crossed into India from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Several states run by the BJP have also made laws that restrict interfaith marriage, citing the unproven conspiracy theory of “ love jihad,” which claims Muslim men use marriage to convert Hindu women.

Through it all, Modi has largely stayed silent, and critics say that has emboldened some of his most extreme supporters and enabled more hate speech against Muslims.

FILE- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi listens to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President JP Nadda speak during an event organized to release their party's manifesto for the upcoming national parliamentary elections in New Delhi, India, April 14, 2024. India's main opposition party is accusing Modi of hate speech after he called Muslims “infiltrators" and used some of his most incendiary rhetoric to date about the minority faith.(AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

FILE- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi listens to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President JP Nadda speak during an event organized to release their party's manifesto for the upcoming national parliamentary elections in New Delhi, India, April 14, 2024. India's main opposition party is accusing Modi of hate speech after he called Muslims “infiltrators" and used some of his most incendiary rhetoric to date about the minority faith.(AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

Next Article

Trump holds a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo his hometown

2024-05-25 00:18 Last Updated At:00:21

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has campaigned in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

Trump on Thursday addressed supporters in Crotona Park, a public green space in a neighborhood that is among the city's most diverse and its most impoverished, a change from the majority-white areas where the Republican holds most of his rallies. While the crowd was not quite as diverse as the South Bronx as a whole, it included large numbers of Black and Hispanic voters, and Spanish was heard throughout the crowd.

Trump, in his speech, cast himself as a better president for Black and Hispanic voters than President Joe Biden as he railed against Biden on immigration, an issue Trump has made central to his campaign. He insisted “the biggest negative impact” of the influx of migrants in New York is “against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose."

Some in the crowd responded by chanting, “Build the wall,” a reference to Trump's push while in the White House to build a U.S.-Mexico border barrier.

With Trump confined to New York for much of the last six weeks because of his trial, the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign has planned a series of local stops across his hometown before and after court. He visited a bodega in Harlem, dropped by a construction site and held a photo op at a local firehouse.

But the Bronx rally was his first event open to the general public as he insists he is making a play to win an overwhelmingly Democratic state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Besides creating a spectacle of rallygoers and protesters, the rally also gave Trump an opportunity to highlight what he argues are advantages on economic and immigration issues that could cut into key Democratic voting blocs.

“The strategy is to demonstrate to the voters of the Bronx and New York that this isn’t your typical presidential election, that Donald Trump is here to represent everybody and get our country back on track,” said Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, a potential Trump running mate who grew up in Brooklyn.

The former president opened his rally with an ode to his hometown, talking about its humble beginnings as a small Dutch trading post before becoming a glamorous capital of culture that “inspired the entire world.” While Trump established residency in Florida in 2019, he reminisced on Thursday about his efforts to revitalize Central Park's Wollman Rink and people he knew in the real estate business.

“Everyone wanted to be here," he told the enthusiastic audience. “But sadly this is now a city in decline."

“If a New Yorker can’t save this country," he went on to say, “no one can.”

Trump called several people with local ties to the stage, including Donalds and the Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., a former New York City Council member. He also brought up the local rappers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow, who were indicted last year for conspiracy to commit murder by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

Hours before Trump’s rally was set to begin, a long line of supporters decked out in red “Make America Great Again” hats and other Trump gear snaked around the park, waiting for security screening to begin. People were still entering the park well into Trump's speech, with some eager supporters sprinting up a hill toward the rally site after getting through security.

The Bronx Democratic Party protested Trump's appearance with its own event at the park.

Members of multiple unions were present, holding signs that said “The Bronx says no to Trump” in both English and Spanish.

“We are used to elected officials, to government officials, to opportunists of all kinds who come to our community and use our painful history,” said Democratic State Rep. Amanda Septimo, who represents the South Bronx. "They talk about the Bronx and everything that’s wrong with it, but they never get to the part that talks about what they’re going to do for the Bronx and we know that Trump is never going to get to that part in his speech.”

But some locals in the crowd Thursday disagreed.

Margarita Rosario, a 69-year-old who has lived in the borough for more than 60 years, said she saw Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on television the night before suggesting that the Bronx wouldn't support Trump. It spurred her to show up, holding a Trump flag and a poster that said, “Make America Great Again.”

“I got so annoyed with that. I said, ‘How dare she speak for the whole Bronx?’” Rosario said.

Muhammad Ali, a 50-year-old who lives in the Bronx and said he planned to vote for Trump in November, said he once used to think the former president was a racist but his views have changed.

“We need a patriotic president at the moment and I find Donald Trump more patriotic for the moment than Joe Biden,” said Ali, an immigrant from Bangladesh and worker for New York’s transportation agency.

At least one New Yorker in the crowd said he knew Trump from his days as a local billionaire real estate developer.

Alfredo Rosado, 62, said he’d been a Trump supporter since 1998 when he worked for several months as a fill-in summer doorman at Trump’s Trump Tower building.

Rosado recounted how Trump had asked his name and stopped to chat. “He’s the same person you see,” he said of the former president.

Trump’s campaign believes he can chip away at Biden's support among Black and Hispanic voters, particularly younger men who may not follow politics closely, but are frustrated by their economic situations and drawn to Trump’s tough-guy persona.

He's also argued the indictments he faces in New York and elsewhere make him relatable to Black voters frustrated by the criminal justice system, a statement that was harshly criticized by Biden's allies.

Biden’s campaign on Thursday released two ads aimed at undercutting Trump’s attempts to make inroads with Black voters, highlighting his propagation of the “birther” conspiracy against former President Barack Obama and his calls for the death penalty for five men wrongly convicted of rape in the 1989 Central Park Five case. A radio ad fictionalizing a conversation between a Trump campaign volunteer and a Black voter will air on national Black radio stations while a shorter television spot will air in major cities, in swing states and on digital platforms, aiming to reach voters in the Bronx near Trump’s rally.

The rally comes during a pause in Trump’s criminal hush money trial. Court will resume following the Memorial Day weekend with closing arguments. The jury will then decide whether Trump will become the first former president in the nation's history to be criminally convicted and whether he will be the first major party presidential candidate to run as a convicted felon.

The Bronx was once the most Democratic borough in the city. Barack Obama won 91.2% of the borough's vote in 2012, the highest in the state. Biden won 83.5% of the borough in 2020. Trump garnered only 16% of the vote.

The area Trump visited is overwhelmingly non-white — a departure from most of his rally locations. About 65% of residents are Hispanic and 31% Black, according to the U.S. Census data. About 35% live below the poverty line.

As he wrapped up his speech, Trump said he woke up Thursday uncertain of the reception he'd get in the Bronx.

"I said, ‘I wonder, will it be hostile or will it be friendly?’" he said. "It was beyond friendly. It was a lovefest.”

This story has been corrected to show the rappers were charged last year, not this month.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington and Liset Cruz in New York contributed to this report.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump prepares to speak at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gather ahead of a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump gather ahead of a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gather for a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former Rep. George Santos, right, takes pictures with supporters outside a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former Rep. George Santos, right, takes pictures with supporters outside a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

A banner in support of Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is set up before a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

A banner in support of Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is set up before a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pick up posters ahead of a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Supporters of the Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pick up posters ahead of a campaign rally in the Bronx borough of New York, Thursday, May. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks with construction workers at the construction site of the new JPMorgan Chase headquarters in midtown Manhattan, April 25, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks with construction workers at the construction site of the new JPMorgan Chase headquarters in midtown Manhattan, April 25, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

Recommended Articles