In an outrageous incident that violates the fundamental right of religious freedom, 11 Shiv Sena MPs allegedly forced a Muslim caterer to eat a piece of chapatti and break his Ramzan roza, a ritual fast that the Muslim community has been observing this month.
The incident is said to have happened at the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi last week, reported The Indian Express. The Shiv Sena MPs are said to have been angry about not being served Maharashtrian food.
A video footage showed on news channels show an individual identified as a Sena MP forcing a piece of Chapatti into the catering staff's mouth. The IRCTC, which was catering for the Sadan, has called off operations ever since the incident.
It is pertinent that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party act tough with its Maharashtra ally on the issue, firstly because of the gross violation of constitutional rights and second to assure the country's Muslim population that it is not at threat from saffron forces.
The Indian Constitution promises freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion to every citizen of the country under Article 25. The incident also violated the rights of religious minorities as Article 26 promises that subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to manage its own affairs in the matters of religion.
Muslims observe a month-long fast of Ramzan in the ninth month of the lunar calendar, which is considered a basic tenet of Islam.
National outrage over the incident is growing, and the BJP-led government cannot afford to let the matter slip by and must take steps to assuage anger. Given that there were fears among some sections of the country's Muslim community over Narendra Modi's victory in the general elections in May, rooted in the infamous Godhra riots that happened under his rule in Guajrat, the Modi government cannot afford to stay quiet as such instances sway further anger.
The Shiv Sena, however, has denied the incident. "It is a false allegation. The Maharashtra ministers want to hide their corruption," Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut told a news channel.
Twitterati slammed the incident vehemently.
This is inadmissible. If Shiv Sena MPs can't respect sacred tradition of Muslims then how can they expect that Muslims will respect Hindus?
— Vikramaditya Singh (@Vikramaditya84) July 23, 2014
Former Congress MP Milind Deora tweeted -
The Shiv Sena issue isn't just about religious bigotry. It's about taking the law into your own hands. Mob justice by MPs is unpardonable!
— Milind Deora (@milinddeora) July 23, 2014
Hardly any difference left between elected members of parliament and bigoted ruffians in the street.Deplorable conduct of Shiv Sena MPs.
— S l Habib (@irfhabib) July 23, 2014
Meet the megalomaniacal goons legislating for us: Maharashtrian Shiv Sena MPs forcefed a Muslim staffer during Ramzan http://t.co/1PLzNLTDcD
— Rega Jha (@RegaJha) July 23, 2014
The Lok Sabha also witnessed uproar over the issue on Wednesday. Opposition parties such as the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Trinamool Congress and the AIADMK raised the issue in both houses of the Parliament.
Here's what some political leaders said on the issue -
"Ever since the BJP has come into power, extreme right wing Hindutva forces seem to have become emboldened.The Shiv Sena incident is proof." - Sanjay Jha, Congress
"Elections are due in Maharashtra, I feel that Shiv Sena MPs have done this with the intent to polarise the electorate. FIR should be lodged against them, their membership must be cancelled." - Ali Anwar, JD (U)
"We want a discussion in the zero hour and Parliament should clearly state that such acts won't be tolerated. Until there is a national judicial commission there will be no answer to issues like this." - Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M)
"We don't know the facts of the matter yet, let's get the facts first." - Venkaiah Naidu, BJP