Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday compared the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nazi Germany, accusing it of “deliberate and violent targeting of Muslims” to distract public anger from Modi’s coronavirus policies.
“The deliberate and violent targeting of Muslims in India by the Modi government to divert the backlash over its COVID-19 policy, which has left thousands stranded and hungry, is akin to what Nazis did to Jews in Germany. Yet more proof of the racist Hindutva Supremacist ideology of the Modi government,” Khan said on Twitter.
India’s foreign affairs ministry on Monday slammed Khan’s comments as a “bizarre” attempt to “shift focus from the abysmal handling of their internal affairs.”
“Instead of concentrating on fighting COVID-19, they are making baseless allegations against their neighbors,” ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.
“On the subject of minorities, they would be well advised to address the concerns of their own dwindling minority communities, which have been truly discriminated against,” Srivastava added.
Khan accuses India of crimes against humanity with some frequency. Last August he accused the Indian government of practicing “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” by revoking limited autonomy in the disputed province of Kashmir.
Relations between Khan and Modi soured considerably after India passed a controversial law to protect the victims of religious persecution in December 2019. The law has been described as discrimination against Muslims by critics, although it more accurately gives special consideration to refugees from most religions except Islam on the grounds that India’s neighbors are Muslim nations, so Muslims would not need to flee from them due to religious persecution.
Huge protests have been held against the citizenship law, with dozens of fatalities. The law has also been criticized by the Indian right by residents of border provinces who fear their territories will be overrun by non-Muslim migrants.
Dawn, a national Pakistani newspaper, saw the citizenship law dispute as the backdrop for Khan’s remarks, while the UK Guardian reported last week that Indian Muslims are facing a wave of “corona jihad” conspiracy theories blaming them for bringing the Wuhan coronavirus into India.
Muslims have reported verbal and physical harassment from Hindu mobs that accuse them of deliberately spreading the virus through such tactics as spitting into food and drinking water. An Islamic missionary group called Tablighi Jamaat has been accused of spreading the virus by holding a massive rally in March. While some officials say Tablighi Jamaat was irresponsible for holding its rally and risking infections, others in India claim the group is using its members as “human bombs” to infect as many Indians as possible.
Pakistan has its own problems with mosques insisting on holding large group prayers, despite the coronavirus lockdown. India and Pakistan are both planning to begin reopening parts of their economies, even though both are still experiencing a rising number of deaths and infections. Both countries have reported relatively low numbers of coronavirus cases, and both are suspected of undercounting or under-testing.