Indian lawmaker’s home set on fire after he compares far-right Hindus to radical Islamists

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Congress leader Salman Khurshid shared videos on Facebook showing tall flames engulfing part of his house in Nainital in Uttarakhand  (AFP via Getty Images)
Congress leader Salman Khurshid shared videos on Facebook showing tall flames engulfing part of his house in Nainital in Uttarakhand (AFP via Getty Images)

The house of Salman Khurshid — one of the top leaders of the opposition Indian National Congress party — was vandalised and set on fire days after he released a book in which he compared right-wing Hindutva groups to radical Islamists.

On Monday, Mr Khurshid shared videos on Facebook that showed his home at Nainital city in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand engulfed by massive flames. The doors and windows of his home were charred and window panes were shattered.

“I hoped to open these doors to my friends who have left this calling card. Am I still wrong to say this cannot be Hinduism?” the Congress leader wrote in a post on Facebook.

“So such is the debate now. Shame is too ineffective a word. Besides I still hope that we can reason together one day and agree to disagree if not more,” he wrote in another post.

Neelesh Anand, deputy inspector general of Kumaon in Uttarakhand, told news agency ANI that 21 people had been charged over the incident. “Strict action will be taken against perpetrators,” he said.

The caretaker of the house had told the police that 15 to 20 men had barged into the house and had began to bash windows and flowerpots and then proceeded to set a part of the house on fire, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

Mr Khurshid, in a passage in his book titled Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times that was released last month, had compared far-right Hindu groups to radical Islamic groups.

“Sanatan Dharma [an absolute set of duties proscribed to Hindus] and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints were being pushed aside by a robust version of Hindutva [a political ideology], by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram of recent years,” he wrote.

In November 2019, India’s Supreme Court had cleared the way for the construction of a temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram at a disputed site in Ayodhya city in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state. In December 1992, an army of right-wing workers had demolished the Babri mosque at that same site.

The ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India had slammed Mr Khurshid and accused him of hurting the sentiments of Hindus. They also alleged that the leader was trying to communalise politics and win over the Muslim vote bank.

Several other Congress leaders meanwhile condemned the arson and vandalism.

“This is disgraceful. @salman7khurshid is a statesman who has done India proud in international forums & always articulated a moderate, centrist, inclusive vision of the country domestically. The mounting levels of intolerance in our politics should be denounced by those in power,” Congress leader and member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor wrote on his Twitter.

Another senior leader, Digvijaya Singh said: “I strongly condemn attack on Salman Khurshidji’s residence. These illiterate don’t even know what is in the Book.”

However, Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the bigwigs of Congress did not agree with Mr Khurshid and said that “we may not agree with Hindutva as a political ideology but comparing it with Isis and Jihadist Islam is factually wrong and exaggeration.”

The BJP’s Sambit Patra had lashed out at the Congress: “There is a pathological hatred for Hinduism among Congress leaders... and they get traction for this from the Gandhi family.”

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