On Friday (December 23) morning, a Maldivian politician named Abbas Adil Riza courted controversy after he called for an arson attack on the Indian High Commission in the capital city of Malé.
Abbas is currently a member of an Islamist political party named Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and had earlier served as the Commissioner General of Customs during the rule of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
In a tweet, Abbas Adil Riza wrote, “The 8th February arson attacks in Addu were carried out on India’s order. We haven’t retaliated to that yet. I propose we start from the Indian High Commission. #IndiaOut”
The controversial tweet by Abbas, wherein he threatened violence against the Indian High Commission, was retweeted 58 times and liked by 32 people at the time of writing.
The PPM politician was referring to the violent protests, which took place on February 8, 2012, following the ouster of President Mohamed Nasheed at ‘gunpoint.’ After Nasheed was ‘forced’ to resign, his supporters held demonstrations at Republic Square in Malé.
This led to a clash between the protestors and the police, with the latter responding with lathi charge and tear gas shells. Several supporters of President Nasheed were also arrested. Abbas Adil Riza has now claimed that the violence by Nasheed’s supporters was orchestrated at the behest of Indian authorities.
He has now vowed to take ‘revenge’, 10 years after the incident, and directed his followers to attack the Indian High Commission in Malé.
Political parties in Maldives condemn tweet by Abbas
After realising the long-lasting damage that the tweet by the PPM leader can cause to the bilateral ties with India, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the statement.
“The MDP condemns in the strongest terms the call for an arson attack on the Indian High Commission and calls on the authorities to investigate the matter. The MDP also condemns the opposition’s continuous effort to incite violence & hatred towards friendly nations,” it said in a tweet.
The MDP condemns in the strongest terms the call for an arson attack on the Indian High Commission, and calls on the authorities to investigate the matter. The MDP also condemns the opposition’s continuous effort to incite violence & hatred towards friendly nations.
— MDP Secretariat (@MDPSecretariat) December 23, 2022
Another political party nzmMaldives Third Way Democrats (MTD), which came into existence in 2018, also criticised the statement by Abbas Adil Riza.
“MTD condemns the call for arson attack & inciting terror against the Indian High Commission in Maldives by PPM member and former government official Abbas Riza. India is our closest neighbour & they are always there for Maldives in every time we needed,”
India is our closest neighbor & they are always there for Maldives in every time we needed. https://t.co/oV9dhkURdH
— Maldives Third-Way Democrats (@MTDSecretariat) December 23, 2022
Maldives Reform Movement, a political party founded in 2019, stated, “MRM strongly condemns this cowardly incitement of arson and terrorism, targeted at High CommissionIMaldives. We call on authorities to investigate and take strong action against this, and such other acts of hate speech instigating violence.”
MRM strongly condemns this cowardly incitement of arson and terrorism, targeted at @HCIMaldives. We call on authorities to investigate and take strong action against this, and such other acts of hate speech instigating violence.@AmbMunu @PoliceMv @MNDF_Official https://t.co/R9VhxJY2zg
— Maldives Reform Movement (MRM) (@MRM_Office) December 23, 2022
The Background of the ‘India Out’ controversy
The so-called ‘India Out’ campaign began in 2020 as on-ground protests, which later shifted to social media as a ‘hashtag campaign’. Besides the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), one of the frontrunners of this anti-India campaign has been a news outlet by the name of Dhiyares.
While speaking to The Indian Express, Dhiyares co-founder Shifxan Ahmed alleged, “We are just protesting military presence in the country. We are not calling for a violent clash against India or Indians in the Maldives.”
According to one research analyst, Dr Gulbin Sultana, the ‘India out’ campaign is led by former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Sultana added that it is not a civil society movement anymore but rather a political movement.
#DefendMaldives – We will Fight back for any cost to save our Nation & we will raise our voices for our Nation Rights.
We won’t stop #IndiaOut Event’s.
Until #IndiaMilitaryOut from our country. pic.twitter.com/255ko4ptQL
— Maaniu (@Maaniu18) January 29, 2022
It must be mentioned that former President Yameen, who is behind the campaign, had been pro-China during his tenure between 2013 and 2018 as Maldivian President.
Owing to the anti-India sentiments fuelled by the divisive campaign, Indian teachers had been at the receiving end of harassment from protestors. ‘India Out’ campaigners had targeted 2 Indian teachers on two different islands under the garb of protests. They were asked to leave the country.
The cases were confirmed by the Education Ministry of Maldives. “The ministry has also filed a case with the police since the Shaviyani Funadhoo School’s wall has been vandalized with spray paint, in a sign that reads India Out,” a report in The Edition stated.
Education Min: Indian teachers have reported being harassed https://t.co/9dZIWuKlNX
— The Edition (@editionmv) January 17, 2022
The Maldives is of strategic importance for both India and China, with the Communist regime trying to exert its influence in the Indian Ocean. To counter this, India has invested large sums of money in the island nation and has now become of the largest investors in the island nation.
One of the primary arguments behind the ‘India out’ movement is the alleged presence of Indian military forces in the island nation. While speaking on this matter, Chief of Staff at President’s Office Ali Zahir said that the presence of foreign military did not automatically imply foreign control over the Maldives.
“Even our own military personnel are stationed in various countries abroad,” he added.