Indians in Germany, among various other organisations and collectives, have asked the consul general in Hamburg to remove Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya from a startup conference speaker’s list, saying that a polarising figure like him should not find a safe haven in Europe, reported on Sunday.

India Solidarity Germany, The Humanism Project, Solidarity Belgium, Indians Against CAA, NRC and NPR – Finland, Bharath Democracy Watch, Indian Alliance Paris, and Foundation The London Story were among the signatories who wrote to the Indian consulate on October 2.

In their letter, the signatories expressed concern that Surya was invited to an event that appears to be inclusive for Indians of all faiths.

“It brings into question the spirit with which the event is conducted whether it is for all Indians or only for those who endorse or are fine with the polarising, abhorrent and dehumanising views held by Tejaswi Surya, which goes against the diverse community of Indians in Germany. It is extremely concerning to see an official platform is being given for such a controversial figure which will achieve nothing but further division and right-wing radicalisation on the German soil.”

— The letter

The signatories also attached the BJP MP’s controversial and communal tweets along with the remarks made by him during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Bengaluru. “Does the consulate also endorse his following views where he openly plays communal-politics and calls for the government to favor a particular religion,” the letter asked.

They pointed out that Surya believes that anyone opposed to the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “anti-India”, including Opposition leaders. “One wonders what then is democracy if the voices of Opposition and dissent are stifled,” the letter read. “Such statements bring shame to the largest democracy on global level.”

Surya had also called those criticising the citizenship law as “uneducated, illiterate, and puncture-wallahs”, they wrote. The Bengaluru South MP had made the remarks to loud applause at the Town Hall in the city last year.

His old derogatory tweet on Arab women, which had resurfaced on social media in April, was also highlighted by the Indian diaspora. In the post, Surya claimed to have cited controversial television personality and writer Tarek Fateh. “95% Arab women have never had an orgasm in the last few hundred years!” the BJP leader’s tweet read. “Every mother has produced kids as act of sex and not love.”

The organisations and collectives said that Surya “clearly has a divisive agenda” against those who are not Hindus. They said this is in contravention of the European ethos of equality, diversity and inclusivity. “It is also in contravention of the European responsibility under international law, most notably, UDHR, ICRD, ICCPR, EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Directive 2000/78/EC and COM(2008)462,” the letter added.

They urged the Indian consulate to redact the invitation extended to the BJP leader, call speakers with diverse backgrounds and experiences and remain true to the European values of inclusiveness, diversity and human rights for all.

“By giving platform to Surya, we fear that EU will be closing the doors of equal opportunity for the non-Hindu communities within and outside of India. The consulate will then be complicit in promoting the communal ideology of Surya and would allow Germany to be a host of radicalised Indian diaspora who already marvel in hate speech, oppression of dissent and populism on social media and beyond.”

Calling Surya a “bigoted person”, the Indian diaspora said that giving him an official platform to speak in Germany will jeopardise the secular and democratic ethos of Europe.

“We will also raise this concern to other European progressive bodies and human rights institutions to limit platforms to people who are out rightly bigoted, misogynistic and take shelter behind freedom of speech to spew hatred against particular communities.We will really appreciate your actions toward holding and promoting the idea of progressive and pluralistic India by not hosting a polarising figure. We are hopeful that the consulate will find several non-controversial political and social leaders who are inclusive, respectful of diversity and strongly believe in democracy and human rights of all within and outside India.” 

The signatories called on the European diaspora to raise objection with the Indian Consulate for inviting Surya to the event. “We cannot allow such polarizing figures to find a safe haven in Europe,” they said. “We will be sending this letter to the Indian consulate, Hamburg and also to human rights groups.”