BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma at an event where he allegedly gave anti-Muslim hate speech
BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma has sparked a huge controversy by his call for a "total boycott" in a speech seemingly aimed at Muslims.
At a public event at Dilshad Garden in North-east Delhi, Mr Verma is seen addressing supporters on what should be done to "fix their head and set them straight".
He tells them to repeat certain pledges after him, which the people did at the open venue amid rain. Many in the audience are seen with umbrellas. Behind them, there are merry-go-rounds and other joyrides, suggesting of a place where a fair was held recently.
"They keep opening handcarts, you don't need to buy vegetables from them. They open fish-meat shops. We should tell the MCD [municipal corporation] to close them if they don't have licence," Mr Verma said.
"Wherever you see them, if you want to fix their head, if you want to set them straight, then the only cure is total boycott. Raise your hand if you agree," the BJP MP said, and gestured towards the crowd. All of them raised their hands.
"Say after me, we will boycott them," he said. The people repeated after him. "We will not buy anything from their shops. We will not give them any work," Mr Verma said. This, too, drew a loud "yes-we-will" response.
Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Nand Kishor Gurjar tweeted a video where he is seen speaking at the same event where Mr Verma spoke. Mr Gurjar's controversial comments on Muslims were also criticised on social media. "Our beautiful city has become a city for pigs," the BJP MLA said.
Mr Verma, when asked about his remarks, told The Indian Express that he "did not name any religious community". "What I said was that the families whose members carry out such killings should be boycotted. Such families, if they run any restaurant or business, should be boycotted," he said.
Many on Twitter tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar objecting to Mr Verma's speech. Some even tweeted in support of the BJP leader's controversial comments.
Asaduddin Owaisi, Hyderabad MP and chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), shared a video of the speech. The BJP, he said, has "started a war against Muslims" and flagged the "silence" of Home Minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. "If an MP of the ruling party can do this in the national capital, what is the value of the Constitution?"
Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed asked the Delhi Police to act against Mr Verma. "BJP MP Parvesh Verma orders the people of Delhi to financial boycott Muslims. Will Delhi Police act against this man for inciting hatred amongst communities? Does PM Modi condone this speech? Is this what BJP meant by Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas! Speak up," she tweeted, tagging PM Modi.
"No complaints have been received yet. However, footage related to the speeches made at the event will be examined," a senior police officer said, according to news agency PTI. Later in the day, Delhi Police said they have registered an FIR against the organisers of the event for not taking permission to hold the rally. However, no case was registered in connection with the hate speech.
The latest hate speech controversy comes at a time when the country has been trying to fend off bad press, especially at the global level, over how it has been treating its large Muslim population.
The US government's commission on religious freedom had in June asked the Biden administration to categorise India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and 11 other nations as "countries of particular concern" in the context of religious freedom. India called the report "biased and inaccurate".