Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MLA Abdul Bari Siddiqui has created a storm with his remark that the “current atmosphere in the country is not good for Muslims”.
Speaking at an event in Patna last week, the seven-time legislator who is a close associate of RJD chief Lalu Yadav said that he had advised his children who are studying abroad not to return to India because this country’s conditions are no longer conducive for Muslims.
In a video that has gone viral, Siddiqui can be heard saying in Hindi: “My son is studying in Harvard and my daughter has passed out of the London School of Economics. Because of the kind of situation that has emerged in the country (desh ka mahaul), I told my children to find jobs abroad.
"I also told them to take citizenship of another country if they get it. I told them that they may not be able to cope with the situation that prevails in the country today”.
Siddiqui added: “One can understand the pain that one feels when he tells his children to leave their motherland. But such is the condition here”.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to condemn the remarks, terming them ‘anti-national’. Even Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)), which rules Bihar in alliance with the RJD, expressed displeasure.
“He (Siddiqui) should not make such remarks. Nobody is unsafe in India,” senior JD(U) leader and Minister Madan Sahni said.
Another JD(U) leader termed Siddiqui’s comments “very unfortunate”. “We live here in (in India) peace and have to die here,” said JD(U)’s Sanjay Jha.
BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said: “The comment is condemnable, and it reflects the thought process of the RJD. It just shows the kind of politics the party wants to indulge in. He should apologise to the people of the country.
"If he feels so suffocated, and if he has a problem with all the facilities and comforts that have come his way as a leader, he should go to Pakistan with his whole family”.
BJP leader and former minister Ram Surat Rai said that it was unfortunate that the RJD leader chose to speak ill of his own country. “India has given him name, fame and recognition. His children have grown up here. If he now thinks that the atmosphere in India is not good or conducive for Muslims, he should not contest elections”.
But the RJD was quick to come to Siddiqui’s defence. Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari defended his party colleague’s remarks.
In an apparent reference to the insidious comments made by actor Amir Khan a few years ago, Tiwari said: “Sometime back, a film star had also made a similar remark. The situation in India has become so bad that even if a member of a Muslim family is late in returning home, the others in the family panic”.
Tiwari urged the BJP to reflect on Siddiqui’s remarks instead of condemning them. “A large section of Muslims in this country feels unsafe and think it is better to leave India,” Tiwari added.
RJD spokesperson Chittaranjan Gagan said that Siddiqui’s remarks were the outcome of the “pain” he felt. “There prevails an atmosphere of hatred in the country and the people should feel shame over the kind of situation they have created,” he added.
BJP leader Samrat Choudhary pointed out the utter fallacy of these contentions. “There is absolutely no record of any Muslim leaving India and seeking refuge in any other country. People may go out seeking jobs or for higher studies, but that is a different matter.
"I challenge Siddiqui or anyone else to name one Muslim who has left India because he or she felt unsafe here,” he said.
Another BJP leader, Ram Baran Yadav, wondered why the critics of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) demand that the Act be amended to allow Muslims from neighbouring countries to migrate to India and get Indian citizenship if Muslims are so unsafe in India.
“On the one hand, they (anti-CAA activists) want Muslims from neighbouring countries to be granted refuge in India, and on the other they say that India is unsafe for Muslims. This is sheer hypocrisy and downright anti-national. Siddiqui should be prosecuted,” he told Swarajya.
Yadav added: “Given half a chance, a huge number of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis would leave their countries and migrate to India because conditions in India are much better than their own countries”.
Stung by the criticism, Siddiqui issued a weak apology: “I am sorry if I hurt anyone’s sentiments”. But he quickly qualified it by saying that he stood by his remarks.
Social media was rife with condemnation of the RJD leader’s remarks, with many asking him if he is also planning to migrate to some other country.
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