Karnataka health minister's Muslim wife gets slurs from BJP MLA

BJP's Basanagouda Patil Yatnal called fellow MLA Dinesh Gundu Rao “half Pakistani” because his wife is Muslim

Two complaints have been filed against BJP's Basanagouda Patil Yatnal (pictured) for his derogatory remarks and religion-based slurs (photo: @BasanagoudaBJP/X)
Two complaints have been filed against BJP's Basanagouda Patil Yatnal (pictured) for his derogatory remarks and religion-based slurs (photo: @BasanagoudaBJP/X)

Naheed Ataulla

For the second time in five years, Karnataka health and family welfare minister Dinesh Gundu Rao's wife Tabassum, alias Tabu Rao, has been the target of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) crass statements concerning her religion, Islam. 

The latest derogatory remarks over her identity as a Muslim person have been made by BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, representing the Vijayapura Assembly constituency. The trigger for the attack was a tweet by her husband after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) detained and questioned a BJP worker from Shivamogga in connection with the Rameshwaram Cafe blast case on 5 April.

Around 10 people were injured after a blast took place at Bengaluru's popular Rameshwaram Cafe on 1 March.

'With the NIA arresting a BJP worker, does it not imply BJP's involvement in the Rameshwaram Cafe blast? Is there any clearer evidence that the saffron extremism propagated by the BJP in the name of religious protection is causing serious issues? What response does the central BJP, enforcing RSS ideologies nationwide, have to this?' Rao said in a tweet in Kannada.

Responding to the minister's tweet, Yatnal on 6 April alleged that Rao's "house was half Pakistan", alluding to him being married to a Muslim.

In a quick response, Tabu took to the microblogging site X saying: 'Yatnal’s comment that @dineshgrao house is half-Pakistani is downright cheap, derogatory and defamatory. I may be born a Muslim, but nobody can question my Indianness. Will @ECISVEEP, @PMOIndia and @JPNadda take action against this habitual offender?'

Two complaints have been filed against Yatnal. The first was filed on 6 April by the Gandhinagar Block Congress Committee president J. Saravanan, at the Seshadripuram police station. Rao represents the Gandhinangar Assembly constituency in Bengaluru. The second was filed by Tabu herself with the Sanjaynagar police station on Sunday, 7 April.

Speaking to the media after filing the complaint, Tabu said: "I am not in politics. The accused had some issue with my husband so he dragged me into this matter.

This is a very sad thing about this country that they bring up Hindu–Muslim and involve families in almost everything.
Tabu Rao aka Tabassum

"The people of my locality were very hurt about what happened. I have tweeted to the Election Commissioner and even spoke to him. I tweeted to the Prime Minister and J.P. Nadda to see if this is what they want in the country. I demand an apology from that man who I don't even know. How can he question someone's Indian-ness and just say "half his (Dinesh Gundu Rao's) house is Pakistan.''

This is the second time Tabu has been the butt of the BJP's attacks with regard to her religion. 

On 27 January 2019, BJP MP Ananth Kumar Hegde‚ then an union minister — was addressing a meeting of the Hindu Jagran Vedike in Kodagu and remarked: "We have to rethink about priorities of our society. If a Hindu girl is touched by a hand, then that hand should not exist."

His statement was condemned by Rao, who was then the state Congress chief: "Nothing better could be expected from the minister, who was openly calling for vigilantism." He added that it was regrettable to see such people get elected and become ministers, and questioned Hegde's contributions as a minister.

Hegde responded by describing Rao as a "person who ran behind a Muslim lady".

At that time, too, Tabu responded saying: "It appears I am a soft target for  BJP leaders who are unable to politically take on my husband. I am a private person. A mother of two girls and a devout housewife. Yes. I was born a Muslim but we are proud Indians first." She concluded by calling for the BJP to refrain from using her "as a pawn in their cheap politics".

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