BJP on Sunday suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma and the Delhi unit of the party expelled its media cell head, Naveen Kumar from the primary membership of the party following objectionable and communal statements by them on Prophet Mohammad and Islam.
The disciplinary action against Ms Sharma and Mr Kumar comes after after violence broke out in Kanpur and a diplomatic furore broke out especially in the Gulf countries, including the summoning of the Indian Envoy to Qatar, Deepak Mittal by the country's foreign office, while vice president M Venkaiah Naidu is on an official visit there. A flood of protests have also trended on social media, including a call to boycott Indian products in the Gulf countries.
An official statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said that Mr. Mittal "conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India. These are the views of fringe elements....strong action has already been taken against those who made the derogatory remarks," thus terming the spokespersons of the BJP as "fringe elements".
The BJP on its part also released a statement signed by party general secretary Arun Singh distancing the party from these statements, without naming either Ms Sharma or Mr Kumar or contextualising the statement with their utterances.
Ms. Sharma had made her statements during a TV debate entitled "The Gyanvapi Files" on May 26, on the channel Times Now, while Mr. Kumar made objectionable tweets on communal lines. The channel Times Now had earlier released a statement distancing itself from what was said by Ms Sharma on the debate.
“During the thousands of years of the history of India every religion has blossomed and flourished. BJP respects all religions. BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion. The BJP is also strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people of philosophy," said the statement released by the party, just before the suspension and expulsion were done.
The statement then goes on to read that "India's constitution gives the right to every citizen to practice any religion of his/her choice and to honour and respect every religion. As India celebrates 75th year of its independence, we are committed to making India a great country where all are equal and everyone lives with dignity, where all are committed to India's unity and integrity, where all enjoy the fruits of growth and development."
In the suspension letter served on Ms. Sharma, the party said that she had "expressed views contrary to the Party's position on various matters which is in clear violation of Rule 10 (a) of the Constitution of the Bharatiya Janata Party."
Ms. Sharma, after her suspension, released her own statement unconditionally withdrawing her remarks made by her on the TV debate: "I have been attending TV debates for the past many days where our Mahadev was being insulted and disrespected continuously. It was mockingly being said that it is not a Shivling but a fountain (referrence to the videographic survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque in May). The Shivling was also being ridiculed by comparing it to roadside signs and poles. I could not tolerate this continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev and I said some things in response to it. If my words have caused discomfort or hurt feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt religious feelings."
Acccording to sources in the party, the controversy over the statements was becoming bigger by the day, provoking violence in Kanpur on Friday and with growing protests in the Gulf countries as well. "The top leadership of the party felt these statements were unacceptable and this message came from the very top," said a source.
Hashtags calling for the boycott of Indian goods in Gulf countries trended on twitter and more seriously, the Grand Mufti of Oman tweeted from his official account denouncing the remarks made by Ms. Sharma during the TV debate.