Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s remark that there are many “Hussain Obamas” in the country and that the authorities should “prioritise taking care of” them undermines Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion in the United States that there is no religious discrimination in India, Opposition leaders said on Friday.
Sarma made the comment in response to a journalist who asked if a first information report has been filed in Guwahati against former United States President Barack Obama after he said that India risks “pulling apart” if the government does not protect the rights of its ethnic minorities.
“Is Assam police on it’s way to Washington to get Obama offloaded from some flight and arrest him?” the journalist asked on Twitter, referring to the cases lodged in Assam against Opposition leaders over the remarks made in different parts of India.
Sarma said that the Assam Police will act according to its own priorities.
Opposition leaders said that Sarma’s “Hussain Obama” comment was “distasteful”.
He should apologise so that the world believes the prime minister comments that there is no religious discrimination by his government, Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Clyde Crasto said.
“Either he [Sarma] did not listen to our PM Narendra Modi ji’s statement made in the US, or he is disrespectfully disregarding what he said,” Crasto added.
At a press conference with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, Modi told reporters, “Our Constitution and our government, and we have proved democracy can deliver. When I say deliver – caste, creed, religion, gender, there is no space for any discrimination.”
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi on Friday said that Sarma’s statement has proved that Obama’s comments were not misplaced.
Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale said Sarma’s remark has exposed “the hypocrisy and lies of PM Modi on the international stage”.
Congress leader Supriya Shrinate sought a response from Modi and the Ministry of External Affairs about Sarma’s comment. “Actually Himanta has answered what PM Modi was asked at White House,” she wrote on Twitter. “His insinuation – about President Obama being a Muslim and Indian Muslims need to be taught a lesson – was the question’s premise.”
Human rights advocates and dozens of lawmakers from Biden’s Democratic Party have questioned the president’s decision to offer the high honour of a state visit to Modi. They have accused Modi of stifling dissent and creating a hostile environment for the country’s minorities, especially Muslims.