‘It’s not government’s job to tell people what to eat,’ says minister Naqvi amid religious riots

Indians have the freedom to practice their faith and there is no growing intolerance between religious communities, the country’s minority affairs minister said in an interview published on Sunday amid flare-ups of religious riots in various regions of the country.

Religious clashes erupted during a Hindu religious procession in New Delhi for Hanuman Jayanti on Saturday, leaving several people injured, including six police officers, police officials said, days after similar violence in three other Indian states.

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government, told The Economic Times newspaper that “marginal elements, who are unable to digest peace and prosperity in the country , attempt to defame India’s inclusive culture and commitment.”

In recent weeks, small-scale religious riots have broken out between the majority Hindu community and the minority Muslim community during religious processions in some parts of the country. Some New Delhi university students have fought on the JNU campus over the non-vegetarian food served in the hostel during Ram Navami, a week that Hindus consider auspicious.

“It is not the government’s job to tell people what to eat and what not to eat. Every citizen has the freedom in the country to eat whatever food they choose,” Naqvi said.

In recent years, the rule of Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has encouraged extremist religious groups to champion causes they say uphold the Hindu faith. Earlier this month, a controversy erupted over Muslim female students wearing the hijab headscarf at school in Karnataka.

India’s opposition parties publicly expressed concern on Saturday that a multi-faith India, dominated by Hindus but with sizeable minorities including more than 200 million Muslims, is becoming less tolerant under Prime Minister Modi.

“The hijab is not banned in India. One can wear the hijab in the markets and elsewhere. But every college or institution has a dress code, discipline, and decorum. We will have to accept that. If you don’t like it, you can choose another institution,” Naqvi said.

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