LUCKNOW (TIP): Azam Khan, a senior minister in Uttar Pradesh, on April 19 said he will not apologise for an alleged hate speech that led to him being banned from campaigning by the Election Commission. “I have not committed a crime,” Khan told reporters today.
The 55-year-old is a prominent Muslim face of the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party, headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, to whom Khan sent a letter today, alleging that the Election Commission is being used by the union government to “muzzle” him. “Can a man who compares one-fifth of the people of this country to puppies, can he be allowed to become the prime minister of this country?” Khan has written, referring to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who provoked criticism for describing a puppy being run over while commenting on the pain he felt over the Hindu-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002.
Modi has said repeatedly since that his remark was misinterpreted. Earlier this month, the Election Commission made rallies and public meetings off-limits for Khan and Amit Shah, a top aide Modi assigned to run the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh. Both were accused of making speeches designed to incite tension between Hindus and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, which elects 80 parliamentarians.
The ban on Shah was lifted last evening after the Election Commission said the BJP leader had conceded his fault and in writing vowed not to use “abusive or derogatory language.” Muslims account for nearly 20 percent of the population of UP. In September last year, Hindu- Muslim riots, allegedly fuelled by inflammatory speeches by leaders from a cross-section of parties, left nearly 60 people dead in Muzaffarnagar in the western part of the state. Nearly 60,000 people were displaced.