Modi accused of using hate speech against Muslims during election rally

Modi accused of using hate speech against Muslims during election rally
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced backlash for calling Muslims "infiltrators" at an election rally in India.
3 min read
Attacks against minorities have become more brazen under the Modi administration [Getty}

India's main opposition party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using hate speech during an election rally on Sunday.

Speaking before a large crowd in the country's Rajasthan state, Modi said that if voted into power, the country's main opposition, the Indian National Congress, would distribute the country's wealth among "infiltrators" and "those who have more children," in an apparent reference to Muslims.

The remarks at the campaign rally 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 aggravating 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.

"Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators? Would you accept this?" Modi said to applause from the audience.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress party's president, described Modi's comments as "hate speech", while the 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 comments come amidst the of a weeks-long election, where the BJP party is expected to secure a rare third consecutive term.

Meanwhile, Australian journalist Avani Dias revealed she left India on 19 April after being told her visa extension would be denied, claiming her work had "crossed the line" reporting on the killing of Canadian Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the nation of being involved in the killing, which the Indian government has denied.

After the Dias intervened, the journalist got a two-month extension – less than 24 hours before her flight.

Dias also mentioned the authorities denied her necessary accreditation to cover India's general elections, which began on 19 April.

"We were also told my election accreditation would not come through because of an Indian Ministry directive. We left on day one of voting in the national election in what Modi calls 'the mother of democracy'," Dias said on X, formerly Twitter.

On Tuesday, over 30 foreign news journalists in India penned an open letter noting that India has increased restrictions on visas and journalism permits and calling for the Indian government to facilitate free press in line with India's democratic traditions.

The first votes were cast on Friday in the six-week election. According to most surveys, Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP are expected to win. The results will be announced on 4 June.