Friday, June 2, 2023

Muslim population has grown in India, minorities decimated in Pakistan: Sitharaman

Rebutting the perception of violence against Muslims in India, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Muslim population in India has grown since 1947 even as minorities of all kinds have been “decimated” in Pakistan.

She claimed that Muslims continue to conduct normal lives in India, and asked those who made allegations against the Indian state whether the Muslim population had dwindled or whether there were a disproportionate number of deaths in any single community since 2014.

Sitharaman, who was speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC, also pointed out that law and order was a state subject and not the remit of the government of India. She invited those who, she said, created these perceptions without being on the ground to visit India, travel around the country, and then prove their point, even offering to host them.

The finance minister is in Washington to attend the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and chair the second G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting.

Sitharaman was in conversation with Peterson Institute president, Adam Posen. She was responding to a question about whether perceptions in Europe and the United States (US), based on reports in the Western press, about opposition parliamentarians losing their status or Muslim minorities being subjected to violence, had affected capital flows and investment in India.

“The answer lies with the investors coming to India and they are coming. As someone who has an interest in receiving investments, I would only say come and look what’s happening in India rather than listen to perceptions being built by people who haven’t visited on the ground and who produce reports,” she said.

Sitharaman said that emerging markets “carry this burden” of being reminded of their status as an emerging market and asked for help or prodded to play a constructive role, yet being given prescriptions by others.

Rejecting the perception that the moderator alluded to, she said, “India has the second largest Muslim population in the world and the population is only growing in numbers. If there is a perception or if there is in reality that their lives are difficult or made difficult with the support of the state, which is implied in most of these write-ups, I will ask will this happen in India in the sense would Muslim population be growing than what it was in 1947?”

She then said she would name a country so that the contrast could be sharper. “As opposed to Pakistan, which was formed at the same time.Pakistan declared itself an Islamic country but said minorities will be protected. Every minority has been dwindling in its number or if I may use the word, which is harsher, decimated in Pakistan.” She added that even some Muslim sects had been decimated. “Violence prevails against Mohajirs, Shia, and every other group you can name which is not accepted by the mainstream Sunnis.” In India, Sitharaman said, all strands of Muslims were doing their business, their children were being educated, and they were being given fellowships by the government.

She also added that law and order is a state subject and not the Government of India’s subject. “Each province has its elected government. They take care of their law and order in those states. Across the board in India, if violence is happening to make Muslims get affected, in itself is a fallacy as a statement. It cannot be so; each province and police are different.” That shows, Sitharaman said, these reports have “no clue of the law and order systems” in India.

“To say it is all the blame of the government of India, I would want to say tell me between 2014 and today, has the population dwindled? Have deaths been disproportionately high in any one particular community?” Sitharaman then invited those who write these reports to come to India. “I will host them. Let them come and let them travel around India and prove their point.”

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