Centre has nothing to do with Prophet remarks, Gulf ties strong: Goyal

The controversial remarks on Prophet Mohammed by Nupur Sharma, the sacked spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party, will not affect India’s good relations with the Gulf countries, commerce minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.

The BJP has taken necessary action against Sharma for her remarks and the foreign ministry has issued a clarification, Goyal told reporters during a two-day visit to Kochi. There was no need of any apprehension to the expatriate community as India’s strong ties with Gulf Cooperation Council nations were intact, he reassured.

“These remarks were not made by a government functionary. Therefore, it has no impact on the government,” Goyal said. “The BJP has taken action against its functionaries.”

Asked about a social media campaign to boycott Indian products in some Gulf countries in the wake of the contentious comments, Goyal said he was unaware of any such development.

“They have only mentioned that such a statement should not be made and, accordingly, action has been taken against the person who made the comments,” the trade minister said. “All Indians living and working in the Gulf region are safe and do not have to worry.”

The government has nothing to do with these remarks and they won’t affect the image of the Narendra Modi government, Goyal maintained.

During a live television debate on May 28, Sharma made controversial remarks about the Prophet. On June 1, another BJP leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, tweeted some objectionable comments. The comments triggered violent protests in many cities in Uttar Pradesh, including Kanpur.

On June 5, the BJP suspended Sharma and expelled its Delhi unit media head Jindal as the row over their derogatory remarks escalated with protests from some Muslim countries. Amid sharp reaction from countries like Kuwait, Qatar and Iran, the BJP also issued a statement asserting “it respects all religions and strongly denounces insults of any religious personality”.

After her suspension, Sharma unconditionally withdrew her statement and claimed her comments were a “reaction to the continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev (Hindu god Shiva)”. Jindal has since deleted his tweet.

Of the nearly 8.5 million Indians working in various West Asian countries, around 1.8 million are from Kerala.

State’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) and opposition Congress have also slammed the ousted BJP leaders’ remarks.

“Sangh Parivar has once again disgraced our revered secular democracy before the world with the derogatory remarks,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted on Monday. “It is high time to raise unanimous voice against forces of bigotry.”

“What else you expected of a party which is hell bent on wrecking everything we have built up and cherished,” leader of the opposition in state assembly VD Satheesan said.

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