Police in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat faced widespread criticism Thursday after staging an anti-terrorism exercise featuring “militants” dressed up as Muslims.
A video of the drill, which was broadcast on Indian media websites, shows five policemen capturing and then pinning down three men in white knitted skullcaps before bundling them into jeeps. The exercise earlier this week was in preparation for a January 11-13 investment summit in Gujarat, whose speakers will include US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as Modi himself.
Modi, who is leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was chief minister of Gujarat during an outbreak of communal violence in 2002 which killed more than 1,000 people. Most of the victims were Muslims. Kamal Faruqui of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board termed the mock drill “atrocious and highly condemnable”.
“It is profiling the Muslim community which is very bad. They should apologise, otherwise they should be taken to the court,” Faruqui told NDTV news channel. The former ruling Congress party called the incident an act of religious intolerance by a “failed administration”. Police initially tried to brush off the criticism, saying the skullcaps were used “to give them a different look”. But they later apologised for an “avoidable situation”.
“This was a mistake and should not have happened,” local police chief Pradeep Sejul told AFP, adding that an inquiry had been ordered. Concerns about religious intolerance in secular India have grown since Modi came to power in May, fuelled by reports of Muslims and Christians being forced or induced to become Hindus in mass conversions. -dawn