Posted on April 24, 2024

Modi Calls Muslims ‘Infiltrators’ Who Would Take India’s Wealth

Alex Travelli and Suhasini Raj, New York Times, April 22, 2024

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called Muslims “infiltrators” who would take India’s wealth if his opponents gained power — unusually direct and divisive language from a leader who normally lets others do the dirtiest work of polarizing Hindus against Muslims.

Mr. Modi, addressing voters in the state of Rajasthan, referred to a remark once made by Manmohan Singh, his predecessor from the opposition Indian National Congress Party. Mr. Singh, Mr. Modi claimed, had “said that Muslims have the first right to the wealth of the nation. This means they will distribute this wealth to those who have more children, to infiltrators.”

Mr. Modi aimed his emotional appeal at women, addressing “my mothers and sisters” to say that his Congress opponents would take their gold and give it to Muslims.

Implications like these — that Muslims have too many babies, that they are coming for Hindus’ wives and daughters, that their nationality as Indian is itself in doubt — are often made by representatives of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P.

Mr. Modi’s use of such language himself, as he campaigns for a third term in office, raised alarm that it could inflame right-wing vigilantes who target Muslims, and brought up questions about what had prompted his shift in communication style. Usually, Mr. Modi avoids even using the word “Muslims,” coyly finding ways to refer indirectly to India’s largest minority group, of 200 million people.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the president of the Congress party, called Mr. Modi’s remarks “hate speech.” Asaduddin Owaisi, who represents the only national party for Muslims, lamented how “common Hindus are made to fear Muslims while their wealth is being used to enrich others.”


The prime minister’s fiery oration, delivered in 100-degree heat in the town of Banswara in arid Rajasthan, marked a contrast to the image he presents in international contexts.

During a visit to the White House in June, Mr. Modi said there was “no question of discrimination” in India. When he played host to the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi three months later, he chose the theme “the world is one family”(in Sanskrit, the primary liturgical language of orthodox Hinduism).


The B.J.P. remains the favorite to win another parliamentary majority when six weeks of voting concludes on June 1 and ballots are counted three days later. {snip}


The basis for Mr. Modi’s attack was a 22-second excerpt from a statement that Mr. Singh, a Sikh economist who was the prime minister before Mr. Modi, made in 2006. Mr. Singh had been listing many of the traditionally disadvantaged groups in India, including lower-caste Hindus and tribal populations, and “in particular the Muslim community,” and said that all should share equitably in the nation’s wealth.