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It's nearly official: Under BJP, the govt will not host iftar parties

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 28 June 2017, 13:52 IST

If there was any doubt over the reasons behind the absence of any BJP leader from President Pranab Mukherjee's iftar on 23 June, it has been dispelled by Union Minister Giriraj Singh's statement.

Singh told reporters on 25 June that holding iftar parties was “drama” and those hosting them should answer whether they will host such a function for Hindus.

Singh's statement has only laid bare what appears to be becoming official policy under the Narendra Modi government. This policy essentially revolves around giving a stern message against the hosting of iftar parties by top government functionaries.

Ending a tradition

The Prime Minister's Office at Lok Kalyan Marg in Delhi stopped hosting iftar parties after Modi became PM in 2014. The office of the President, under Pranab Mukherjee, tried balancing the situation by keeping the tradition alive himself but Modi has not attended any iftar party hosted by the President in the last four years.

Till 2016, several union ministers were seen at the President's iftar parties, but they appear to have taken a cue from Modi this year as the party was summarily devoid of any representation from BJP, let alone the Union Cabinet. 

The government seems to be giving out a message that iftar parties by public functionaries may be entirely on their way out, toeing the line adopted by the Donald Trump administration in the US.

How long before even the President's office falls in line?

Celebrating Eid, but avoiding iftar

While it has made its contempt for hosting iftar parties clear, the BJP still appears to be in some confusion over whether to greet people on Eid or not.

On Eid, while top Cabinet ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj issued Eid wishes through their Twitter handles, the PMO did not. However, Modi tweeted Eid greetings from his personal handle.

https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/879162982940327936

The PMO did put out a press release though, conveying a crisp Eid message - “Eid-ul-Fitr greetings! May this auspicious day further the spirit of peace and brotherhood in our society".

BJP chief Amit Shah did not post any tweet on Eid and neither did the party's official Twitter handle @BJP4India. The handle only retweeted the Eid wish posted by Modi's personal handle.

Modi had issued Eid greetings on Sunday, 25 June, in his radio address Mann Ki Baat, but had connected it to his pet Swachh Bharat programme. He spoke about a village in Uttar Pradesh where its Muslim residents had constructed a public toilet during the month of Ramazan and had refused to take any financial aid from the government.

In defence of iftar

In the frenzied times we live in, this iftar ban that the BJP appears to be pushing must be strongly denounced. BJP's message is clear: when those holding public offices host iftar parties, it sends out the message of appeasing Muslims, which can not continue if the party has to focus on consolidating and polarising the Hindu vote.

BJP leaders have already admitted on record that they do not expect Muslims to vote for them, so this urge to do away with indications that are comforting for Muslims makes perfect sense. However, we must remember that these are times when Muslims are being attacked, injured and killed by unruly mobs and smaller groups over pretexts like their looks, their dress, their occupation and their food.

These are times when young Muslims are wondering whether they will be attacked suddenly out in the open only because of their dress? Many others are living in fear of a mob suddenly breaking into their homes and attacking them and their family.

Appeasement is not the reason why iftar parties are hosted and Eid wishes are conveyed. Political celebration of Eid and all other festivals is an extension of a social practice, wherein by wishing people who do not practice your religion is a way of telling them that you respect their choice of religion.

By boycotting iftar parties, the government is clearly telling non-Hindus that it doesn't respect their choice of religion.

This is not how plural democracies behave. If the US is changing, it only indicates how majoritarianism is threatening inclusiveness. India will do well not to emulate the Trump administration.

First published: 27 June 2017, 18:15 IST
 
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.

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