Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday defended his recent ‘butcher of Gujarat’ remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that he was “referring to a historical fact”.
At a UN conference last week, Bilawal had described Modi as “the butcher of Gujarat,” a nickname he had earned for overseeing a pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the state chief minister.
The foreign minister had said that instead of being punished for the 2002 massacre of over 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat, Modi was made the prime minister of India.
The remarks were in response to Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar who had accused Pakistan of being the “epicenter of terrorism” for “harbouring Osama bin Laden”
In his address, Bilawal said, “Osama Bin Laden is dead but the Butcher of Gujarat lives and he is the prime minister of India. He was banned from entering this country until he became prime minister. This is the prime minister of the RSS and the foreign minister of the RSS. What is the RSS? The RSS draws its inspiration from Hitler’s SS.”
The Indian government had heavily criticised Bilawal’s remarks and workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had staged protests in parts of the country, including outside the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.
In an interview with Bloomberg published today, the foreign minister defended his remarks, saying that he was “referring to historical reality”. He said that the term “Butcher of Gujrat” was not his own invention but that Muslims in India following the Gujarat riots used that term for Modi.
“I believe I was referring to a historical fact, and they believe that repeating history is a personal insult,” he said.
Bilawal noted that it has been a few days since his remark and a member of the BJP has announced a INR20 million bounty on his head. “I don’t think the best way to disprove the fact that Mr Modi is the Butcher of Gujarat is to adopt such extreme steps,” he said.
“If I’m quoting somebody else, and speaking about a historical fact that Mr. Modi would prefer we forget about, the response shouldn’t be a threat of assassination,” Bilawal said, adding that the death threat “crossed a line.”