Stepping up pressure for legal action against Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, opposition parties on Monday demanded that they be arrested for their controversial remarks on Prophet Mohammad and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of denting the image of the country.
While the ruling party faced more criticism at home, the diplomatic fallout of the row continued as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Indonesia, Jordan, UAE, Maldives, Oman and Afghanistan joined several Muslim nations in condemning the alleged derogatory remarks.
The BJP had on Monday suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled Naveen Kumar Jindal, its Delhi media head, in a fire-fighting exercise, but the opposition parties like the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Left dismissed it as mere "drama" and "sham" and demanded strict legal action against the two.
While Sharma is facing cases in various cities over her remarks, the Delhi Police has now registered an FIR on her complaint that she is receiving death threats.
Delhi police officials said the FIR has been registered under various IPC Sections like 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) against the unidentified people.
Sharma will be summoned by the Mumbai police to record her statement in connection with an FIR against her on a complaint by Muslim outfit Raza Academyover her remarks, according to Mumbai police commissioner Sanjay Panday.
The Congress hit out at the BJP, demanding the immediate arrest of those who have defamed India at the international level instead of enacting a “drama of action”.
Asking why those responsible for putting out offensive comments had not been arrested yet, the Congress said it was unacceptable for the nation to apologise for such mistakes.
"Divided internally, India becomes weak externally. BJP's shameful bigotry has not only isolated us but also damaged India's standing globally," Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen also demanded the immediate arrest of the BJP functionaries and said the country's image has been dented internationally due to the "wrong policies" of the BJP.
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged the BJP has led the country to such a situation that even "small countries are now challenging the great nation of India".
The opposition parties targeted the prime minister and the BJP after the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation slammed India for the comments by the two Bharatiya Janata Party functionaries and even urged the UN to take necessary measures to ensure that the rights of Muslims are protected in India.
Even as it continued to assuage outrage in the Islamic world, the ministry of external affairs categorically rejected criticism of India by the 57-member OIC and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over the issue.
MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India accords the "highest respect" to all religions and described the statement by the grouping as "motivated, misleading and mischievous" and that it exposed its "divisive agenda" which is being pursued at the behest of "vested interests."
"The Government of India categorically rejects OIC Secretariat's unwarranted and narrow-minded comments. The Government of India accords the highest respect to all religions," Bagchi said.
"The offensive tweets and comments denigrating a religious personality were made by certain individuals. They do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India," he said.
Countries like Qatar, Iran and Kuwait had summoned Indian ambassadors and handed over protest notes on Sunday. Some of the countries welcomed BJP's punitive action against the duo.
The BJP's action against its two functionaries cap a series of statements from its top brass and also RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that sought to distance their organisations from the shrill and combative religious rhetoric.
The party's action, however, has also drawn angry reactions from a section of BJP's faithful cheerleaders on social media, more so for Sharma, reflecting the dissonance between the army of supporters and its leadership, which acted to contain negative fallouts.
The Left parties alleged the BJP was "forced to act" and suspend Nupur Sharma due to pressure from other countries.
"Nupur Sharma publicly thanked party leaders Amit Shah, PMO and others for support. Now under pressure from other countries, they are forced to act and suspend her. These are patrons of hate speech. Condemn Isolate Defeat them Save India," said Communist Party of India-Marxist in a tweet.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury questioned how BJP leaders speaking on behalf of the party can be called "fringe elements."
The opposition parties also said the country will not apologise for the mistakes of the BJP.
"Instead of doing a drama of action against anti-social elements in the party who have defamed India at the international level, it should immediately arrest them," the Congress said.
"With their hate-mongering propagandist politics, BJP hasn't just shamed the country but put the nation which once stood for peace and harmony on trial for the whole world to see," it alleged.
Party leader P Chidambaram said it was not domestic criticism but an international backlash that had pushed the BJP to take action against its functionaries.
National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah said the statements made to pander to a local audience have damaged Indian interests in a part of the world that is crucial to the country.
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board said the BJP's action against the two functionaries was a "good thing" but not enough and demanded stringent legal action against them.
The Ittehad-e-Millat Council said it will hold protests across the country on June 10 if no legal action was initiated against Sharma.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad, however, said there should be "a strict law" against blasphemy in India and supported a Twitter trend calling for a boycott of Qatar Airways.
The RSS affiliate questioned the Qatar government's stand on the row and said Hindu beliefs were insulted when Shivaling, which was claimed to have been found at the Gyanvapi mosque premises in Varanasi, was called a fountain by a section of people.