Last Muslim lawmaker dumps India's ruling BJP
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The last remaining Muslim lawmaker in India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has resigned, leaving the party without a single representative from the minority community among its 395 members of parliament.
Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi resigned. The Indian parliament has nearly 800 lawmakers in total.
"My work in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) is over, but my political and social work will never be over," Naqvi told local news channel NDTV Thursday, without providing details over why he will not be seeking re-election.
Naqvi's resignation comes at a volatile time for India's Hindu and Muslim communities. Religious tensions have been flaring in recent weeks, following comments by the now suspended BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, about the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) widely condemned as Islamophobic.
Violent and deadly clashes have since broken out in parts of the country between Hindus and Muslims -- who respectively make up about 80% and 14% of the country's 1.3 billion population.
Tensions reached a boiling point last week following the brutal killing of a Hindu tailor, allegedly by two Muslim men.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP swept to power in 2014 promising economic reform and development, but critics feared his rise could signal an ideological shift away from the nation's secular political underpinnings to those of a Hindu-nationalist state.
The BJP has its roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu group that counts Modi among its members, and adheres to Hindutva ideology which seeks to define Indian culture in accordance with Hindu values.
Since then, the ruling party has been repeatedly accused by rights groups, activists and opposition parties of stirring anti-Muslim sentiment.
Over the last eight years, several BJP-run states have imposed new laws that critics say are rooted in Hindutva ideology. At the same time, reports of violence and hate-speech against Muslims have made headlines across the country.
Some of the most controversial new laws are in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Hindu monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath. The state has introduced laws to protect cows, an animal considered sacred to Hindus, from slaughter, and made it increasingly difficult to transport cattle. It has also introduced an anti-conversion bill, which makes it harder for interfaith couples to marry or for people to convert to Islam or Christianity.
Earlier this year, the BJP-ruled southern state of Karnataka banned Muslim girls from wearing religious headscarves in classrooms, prompting several to challenge the decision in the state's top court -- a battle they ultimately lost.
Last month, India scrambled to contain the diplomatic fallout as at least 15 Muslim-majority countries condemned Sharma's remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. The incident sparked uproar among India's key Arab trading partners and calls from around the Gulf to boycott Indian goods.
In response, the BJP said on its website that the party respected all religions.
"The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion," it said.