The head of India's conservative governing party referred on Monday to immigrants — mainly Muslims from neighboring Bangladesh — as "termites," for the third time in recent days, despite severe criticisms from human rights groups.
"Should they be thrown out or not? Millions of infiltrators have entered our country and are eating the country like termites. Should we not uproot them?" said Amit Shah, president of the Janata Party (BJP) during a public event in New Delhi, as reported by local media.
"Amit Shah has made an unwanted remark by describing Bangladeshis as termites, commented Bangladesh's Minister of Information Hasanul Haq Inu in an interview with Indian newspaper The Hindu. “We, in Dhaka, do not give any importance to his statement as it does not carry the gravity of an official statement of India."
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the decision on Twitter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in the eastern state of Assam for the first time last year, vowing to act against illegal Muslim residents who take away jobs from local Hindus.
To be recognized as Indian citizens, they must be able to produce documents proving that they or their family lived in the country before March 24, 1971.
Tens of thousands of people fled to India from Bangladesh during its war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s. Most of them settled in Assam, in India’s north-east, and the neighboring state of West Bengal, where there are similar demands to send back illegal Muslim immigrants.