NEW DELHI: India’s parliament erupted in anger Wednesday after television footage showed a hardline Hindu nationalist lawmaker apparently trying to force-feed a Muslim man during the month of Ramadan.
Opposition Congress MPs launched raucous protests in the parliament, saying the lawmaker had violated the man’s religious beliefs by aggressively trying to shove a chapati, or piece of bread, in his mouth.
“It is absolutely reprehensible and should be condemned in the strongest possible manner,” Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari later told reporters.
The lawmaker is from the hard-line Hindu nationalist outfit Shiv Sena, a key ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party. The incident is likely to fan concern among Muslims and other minorities over Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
The footage, aired on national television, showed a group of Shiv Sena lawmakers confronting a catering supervisor last Thursday in New Delhi. The lawmakers were complaining about the quality of food offered at a guest house for officials from the state of Maharashtra, where Shiv Sena is based.
The footage showed lawmaker Rajan Baburao Vichare attempting several times to push the bread into the supervisor’s mouth as a crowd gathered. Vichare said he was not trying to break the supervisor’s religious fast. Instead he was trying to demonstrate that the chapatis being served were too hard.
“This was only a protest against the quality of food and other arrangements at the Maharashtra Sadan [guest house] where all the important dignitaries come and stay,” Vichare told Headlines Today news channel. “The canteen management here is in a bad state. The chapatis they made didn’t even break, the quality of vegetables and pulses is bad.”
“Making this a religious issue doesn’t make sense,” he said.