The Delhi Chief Electoral Officer’s office on Monday sought a report from the North West district’s election officer in connection with a rally by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union minister Anurag Thakur where he encouraged the audience to shout an incendiary slogan, PTI reported. At the rally, Thakur, the minister of state for finance, shouted “desh ke gaddaron ko” and the crowd responded with “goli maaro saalon ko [shoot the traitors to the country]”.
“We have taken cognisance of the incident and have sought a report from the district election officer,” a senior official in the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer’s office said. “However, we have not received any complaint so far.”
The Congress demanded that the Election Commission take action against Thakur. “The EC must take immediate action against the minister for instigating violence and take appropriate measures,” Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee said. “As the economy is going downhill, unemployment is at record levels and the Modi government does not have anything to showcase, the BJP is back to its favourite game of polarisation.”
Mukherjee called the incident “outrageous, provoking and scary”. She said Thakur was following in the footsteps of senior leaders of the BJP who identify people by the clothes they wear, an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at a rally in December.
Thakur was addressing the rally in support of Manish Chaudhary, the BJP candidate for the Delhi Assembly elections from Rithala. The elections for all 70 seats will be held on February 8, and the results announced on February 11.
Thakur shouted the first half of the slogan with reference to people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Thakur also claimed that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi speak the same language.
Election Commission officials told NDTV that a video of the speech has been received and is being examined. The Returning Officer of the constituency told the news channel that Chaudhary was present on stage when the slogan was shouted. However, he did not clarify what kind of action would be taken against the minister or the candidate.
Thakur later claimed to The Indian Express that he was merely asking what should be done with traitors to the country. “It could have evoked a response like ‘vote them out’ or ‘throw them out’. But it was the people who reacted so,” he said. “First you should watch the entire video... Then you should see the mood of the people of Delhi,” NDTV reported him as saying.
However, the slogan has been chanted at pro-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in the past. It was shouted at a rally organised by BJP leader Kapil Mishra in Delhi earlier this month, as well as at a protest march in Nagpur in Maharashtra.
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Assam.
The government’s critics and some Indian residents fear that the amended law and the National Register of Citizens will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion. There are now also fears that a nation-wide National Register of Citizens will be imposed. The Assam NRC had left out around 6% of the state’s population. Work has also begun on the National Population Register, which is the first step to creating an all-Indian NRC identifying undocumented migrants residing in India.