Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi: Last Muslim MP leaves India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi resigned on Wednesday, a day before his term expired. In total, there are about 800 deputies in the Indian Parliament.

“My work in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) is over, but my political and social work will never end.” – Naqvi said local news channel NDTV on Thursday, without providing details on why he would not seek re-election.

Naqvi’s resignation came at a turbulent time for India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. Religious tensions have escalated in recent weeks following comments by now-suspended BJP spokesman Nupur Sharma about the Prophet Muhammad, who is widely condemned as Islamophobic.

Since then, violent and deadly clashes have erupted in parts of the country between Hindus and Muslims, who make up, respectively, about 80% and 14% of the country’s 1.3 billion population.
Tensions reached a boiling point last week following the brutal murder of a Hindu tailor, allegedly by two Muslim men.

With about 200 million Muslims living in India, the country is home to the third largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP came to power in 2014 promising economic reform and development, but critics feared his arrival could signal an ideological shift from the country’s secular political foundations to those of a Hindu-nationalist state.

The BJP has its origins in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu group that includes Modi among its members and adheres to the Hindutva ideology, which seeks to define Indian culture along Hindu values.

Since then, the ruling party has been repeatedly accused by human rights groups, activists and opposition parties of inciting anti-Muslim sentiment.

Over the past eight years, several BJP-ruled states have introduced new laws that critics say are rooted in Hindutva ideology. At the same time, reports of violence and hate speech against Muslims made headlines across the country.

Some of the most controversial new laws have been passed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by Hindu monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath. The state introduced laws to protect cows, animals considered sacred to Hindus, from slaughter, and made it difficult to transport cattle. He also introduced a bill to ban conversions, which makes it harder for interfaith couples to marry or convert people to Islam or Christianity.

Earlier this year, the BJP-run southern state of Karnataka banned Muslim girls from wearing religious hijabs in the classroom, prompting some to challenge the decision in the state’s highest court – a battle they ultimately lost.

Last month, India struggled to contain the diplomatic fallout as at least 15 Muslim-majority countries condemned Sharma’s remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The incident sparked outrage among India’s main Arab trading partners and calls from across the Persian Gulf to boycott Indian goods.

In response, the BJP stated on its website that the party respects all religions.

“The BJP strongly condemns insulting any religious figure of any religion,” the statement said.

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