India ruling party head charged with causing religious tensions

India ruling party head charged with causing religious tensions

LUCKNOW, India - Police Wednesday charged the president of India's ruling political party, Amit Shah, with inflaming religious tensions during the national election campaign, an officer said.

"The charge sheet against Amit Shah has been filed by the investigating officer," deputy superintendent of police Yogendra Singh told AFP in the northern town of Muzaffarnagar.

Police filed the chargesheet in a local court in Muzaffarnagar, although Shah, president of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was not present.

The charges include making a speech intending to cause religious outrage, promoting tensions between different religious group and appealing for votes on religious grounds, the police officer said.

Shah, a key aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was chief strategist in the electorally critical state of Uttar Pradesh during the campaign that the BJP eventually won in a landslide in May.

Shah faced a criminal investigation soon after he gave the speech in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, an area torn apart by Hindu-Muslim hatred last September.

Shah reportedly told a crowd of largely Hindu voters that it was time to seek revenge by casting their ballots at the national election.

He branded the then centre-left government as one "that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Hindus".

More than 50 people were killed in the Muzaffarnagar district, where several BJP members also faced investigation of inciting violence against Muslims.

Shah was appointed to the post of president shortly after the election, and was credited for his role in BJP winning the election.

Shah has faced controversy in the past when he was home minister of the prosperous western state of Gujarat, where Modi ran the state government for close to 13 years.

Shah has been charged over ordering extra-judicial killings in Gujarat and extortion including in 2010.

He has always denied wrongdoing.

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