India’s Hindu hardliners attack Muslim ex-foreign minister’s home

Nov 16, 2021: Hindu extremists have stormed the home of a former Indian foreign minister and set it on fire, police say, in the latest incident of religious violence that critics say erupted under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Salman Khurshid, a Muslim from the main opposition Congress party, published a book last month comparing Modi-led Hindu nationalism to “extremist groups” such as ISIS.

A mob of about 20 members of a hardline local Hindu group gathered outside Khurshid’s house near the northern city of Nainital on Monday, police said. “They chanted slogans, threw stones, smashed several windows, smashed [the entry] and set fire to [a door],” local police chief Jagdish Chandra told AFP.

According to a Times of India report, the group set fire to Khurshid’s effigy, fired shots and threatened the caretaker’s daughter-in-law with a gun.

Khurshid, who served as foreign minister from 2012 to 2014, was out with his family at the time of the incident. He later posted pictures of the attack on social media. “Shame is a very ineffective word,” Khurshid, 68, said on social media. “I hope to open this door for my friends who have given up this calling card. Am I still wrong to say that it cannot be Hinduism?” He added.

Activists say religious minorities in Hindu-majority India have faced increasing levels of discrimination and violence since Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

In 2020, for the first time since 2004, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of special concern.”

Meanwhile, Modi’s government rejects the radical “Hindutva” (Hindu supremacy) agenda and insists that people of all faiths have equal rights. The state of Uttarakhand, where the latest incident took place, seems to be a particular hotspot.

Last month, a mob of about 200 people allegedly attacked a church in the state. The local BJP chief said the building was used for “suspicious gatherings”.

Shashi Tharoor, a prominent Congress lawmaker, said the attack on Khurshid’s house was “shameful”.

Khurshid is “a politician who has always presented a moderate, centralized, comprehensive view of the country at the national level.” “The growing level of intolerance in our politics should be condemned by those in power,” Tharoor said on Twitter.

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