Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again snubbed President Pranab Mukherjee for the Iftar party the latter had invited him for on Friday.
This is the third time Modi has chosen to skip the event, which has lately assumed cultural significance worldwide.
According to an official statement, the dignitaries who attended Friday’s Iftar included Hamid Ansari, the Vice-President of India; Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information and Broadcasting; Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha; Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi; Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of State for Minority Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs; Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA; Sitaram Yechuri; Sheila Dixit; Heads of Diplomatic Missions; senior officials; scholars; religious leaders and public figures from various walks of life.
Journalist Swati Chaturvedi, who first tweeted informing about Modi’s decision to skip the Iftar party, said that the prime minister had insulted the ‘Constitution, the President and more importantly the 16% population of this country.’
Swati tweeted, “@PMOIndia has again given a miss to @RashtrapatiBhvn Iftaar! @narendramodi seems to keep forgetting the speeches he makes abroad!(sic)”
— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) July 1, 2016
This is the third time Modi has rejected the invitation of the first citizen of India. Swati said that this was largely because of Iftar assuming significance for Muslims.
Swati told jantakareporter.com, “I’m appalled by today’s development for so many reasons. When the President of India invites you for a State event, it’s not just an invitation. It’s a command that the prime minister, as an elected head of the country ought to follow. So, by snubbing the President, Modi has insulted the office of the President. He’s also insulted the Constitution because the President is the upholder of the book. And not to mention his disdain for the 16% Muslim population of the country.”
Modi has, in the past, refused to wear the Islamic skull cap inviting widespread criticism.
His latest refusal to attend an event to celebrate an important Muslim ritual may further strengthen the perception about his disdain for the minorities in the country.
The prime minister has often been accused of harbouring ill-feelings towards India’s minorities since 2002 Gujarat’s anti-Muslim holocaust, which many felt could have been averted if Modi, who was then the state’s chief minister, could have wished so.
Modi has, on several occasions, through his public speeches both in India and abroad has said just how much he championed the need for multiculturalism.
In March while addressing the World Sufi Conference in Delhi, Modi had said, “This is the spirit of India. This is the strength of our nation. All our people, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, the micro-minority of Parsis, believers, non-believers, are an integral part of India. Just as it once came to India, today Sufism from India has spread across the world. But, this tradition that evolved in India belongs to the whole of South Asia. That is why I urge others in the region to nurture and revive this glorious heritage of ours.”
Last year, while addressing a huge crowd at London’s Wembley Arena, Modi had said that people often asked him how India’s 1.2 billion people lived together in harmony. India, he said, was a land of 100 languages, 1,500 dialects, 1,000 types of food habits.
“This diversity is our pride and our strength,” he said.
In October last year, Modi had said that India’s beauty lay in its diversity. In his monthly radio broadcast, Mann Ki Baat, the prime minister had said, ” The mantra of unity should always be the medium of our thinking, our behaviour and expression. India is full of diversity. It has different sects, different religions, different languages and different castes. There are so many diversities in our India and this diversity is our beauty.”
However, Modi’s critics may say that he doesn’t believe a word when he talks about representing India’s minorities and he may still be harbouring his alleged deep-rooted ill-feelings towards Muslims in India.