WASHINGTON, July 28, 2014 — India’s government is furious at the actions of some members of its parliament, after it was revealed that a hard line politician forced a Muslim to eat food while he was fasting. The act was condemned nationally by religious Hindu and Muslim organizations, as well as a variety of humanitarian groups.
During the incident, members of the ultra-conservative Shiv Sena party accosted the catering supervisor of a dinner event, Mr. Arshad Zubair, who belongs to the Islamic faith. Complaining about the food, video footage shows MP Rajan Baburao Vichare violently shoving a piece of bread, or “chapatti,” into the supervisor’s mouth. In video of the incident, Zubair can be heard pleading that he is fasting.
In a formal complaint to the government, Zubair writes “They caught me and put the chapati into my mouth.” Becoming emotional, he continues “I was wearing a formal uniform set as prescribed by IRCTC and everybody in the panel also knew my name as “Arshad” as I was wearing the name tag. Even then they inserted the chapati in my mouth which caused my fast to break on the eve of Ramzan. I was hurt with the thing they have done…”
The video of the incident was uploaded online, bolstering Zubair’s claims:
“It is absolutely reprehensible and should be condemned in the strongest possible manner,” Manish Tewaritold, a spokesperson for the political party named “Indian National Congress,” told reporters.
Defending himself, Vichare apparently told India’s Headline News “The quality of vegetables and pulses is bad.”
The manager of the catering company said the force feeding incident was not isolated. “They also issued physical threats to the kitchen and service staff while using highly objectionable language,” said the manager said in an email to a Maharashtra government.
The leader of the Opposition party, Ghulam Nabi Azad blasted the incident, saying “This is against the very basic tenets of the constitution of India which provides freedom to every individual to preach or practice his religion.”
Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily said the occurrence was the “’biggest crime against secularism in the country.”
Shiv Sena, for its part, remained unrepentant. “MPs were telling him to eat food he serves,” said Shiv Sena party president Uddhav Thackeray to the India Times. A fellow parliament member of Vichare, and Shiv Sena party adherent, Krupal Tumane demanded the media apologize for its role in publicizing the attack.
Holding a large protest against the controversial activities of Shiv Sena representatives, rally goers spoke out against the issue of religious intolerance. The rally was held by multiple groups, including the Welfare Party of India, PUCL, Students Islamic Organisation of India and Rajasthan Samagra Seva Sangh.
According to Mangalorean News, “Both houses of India’s parliament have been adjourned in uproar over [the] reports.” The news site also says “Shiv Sena has a history of inciting religious violence. It was blamed for inciting tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities during the 1993 Mumbai riots, in which about 900 people died. The party was founded to keep south Indian migrants out of Maharashtra state and to halt the spread of Islam. It is currently the sixth largest in parliament with 18 seats and is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.”