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'Anti-Muslim' row hits India


BBC on line:

India's National Commission for Minorities has demanded to hear tapes containing allegedly disrespectful remarks about Muslims made by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

It has asked the Gujarat state government to hand over recordings of a speech Mr Modi gave at an election rally, which was broadcast on television and published in newspapers last weekend.

In the speech, Mr Modi apparently blamed Muslims living in refugee camps for the state's population boom. He denies insulting Muslims.

Gujarat was rocked by Hindu-Muslim violence earlier this year, in which about a 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

Many of those who were not, sought shelter in refugee camps.

Mr Modi has been accused by opposition parties of failing to prevent the violence.

'No tape'

Now the vice-chairman of India's National commission for Minorities (NCM), Tirlochan Singh, says the commission has asked for a copy of the tapes and the text of Mr Modi's speech.

There should be a criminal case against Mr Modi under the Indian penal code and the Prevention of Terrorism Act

The NCM is a constitutional body that oversees matters relating to India's minorities.

Mr Singh said: "We are still waiting for the reply of the Gujarat Government."

According to some newspaper reports, Gujarat's state intelligence department has sent a report to the state home ministry on the content of the chief minister's speech.

The Gujarat Government has been quoted as saying it has neither the tape nor the text to send to the NCM.

Several opposition leaders have criticised Mr Modi for being anti-Muslim in the past.

He was accused of not doing enough to control the anti-Muslim riots that erupted after the burning of a train in the town of Godhra in February.

Kapil Sibal, a senior opposition Congress leader, says Mr Modi has committed a criminal offence by making a speech that could spread communal disharmony.

Mr Sibal said: "There should be a criminal case against Mr Modi under the Indian penal code and the Prevention of Terrorism Act."

Even Mr Modi's own party, the governing BJP, has appeared uneasy at the remarks.

Party president Venkaiah Naidu has politely warned Mr Modi to be more cautious in future.

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