Fahad Ali talks about an unending feud
Growing Islamophobia in India – Since after BJP came to power communalism has reached high pitch and unfortunately the focus of hatred is directed towards Muslims. Initially increase in wave of communalism was attributed to the failure of secularist policies followed by the then dominant political Congress Party that consequently faced a backlash. With the passage of time the freedom of Muslims started getting severely curtailed as a community and the restrictions on their religious affairs increased by the day. The prevailing sentiment in the majority community showed that the religious-based toxic narrative whipped up by the ultra-right political party in power was showing no signs of abating. Actually the social polarisation is still on the rise with Muslims bearing the brunt of it. Unfortunately, the international community has turned a blind eye towards the plight of Indian Muslims encouraging the extreme majoritarian elements to run riot with the largest minority of the country. At present there are scant chances of any substantial change in the attitude of the Hindu majority to release their majoritarian vicious on the country.
The potency of poisonous atmosphere created against Muslims in India by Modi regime has now made life impossible for India’s largest minority. Muslims are virtually alienated from the mainstream in India and face extreme persecution in all parts of the country. The spate of violence against Muslims has resulted in creating deep fears in them knowing full well that the rioting will fester to all parts of the country. The rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emboldened hard-line Hindu religious groups in recent years to take up causes that they say defend their faith, although his party has denied any rise in communal tensions. This problem is increasingly becoming unmanageable and could not be avoided as the extremists draw confidence from the fact that they are not answerable for their despicable actions.
The latest issue is hyping Islamophobia and clubbing Indian Muslims with it. Hindu extremists have taken to social media taking a curiously ribald line claiming that Muslims are responsible for the growth of population in India. They exhort Hindu women to bear more children as Muslim women are having too many babies. Such social media influencers have won large audiences within the Hindu majority and most the propaganda they peddle is based upon false demographic data and try to claim that the country is being refashioned into an Islamic state. It is pointed out the news of India overtaking China as the world’s most populous nation has been presented by these extremists as a call for action as the increase in Muslim population has become a threat and may eventually wipe out the Hindu religion from India.
While toeing this line they tend to forget that India is home to 1.4 billion people, including around 210 million Muslims, but birthrates have declined across the board over recent decades in tandem with global trends. Data about India in 2021 pointed out that an overall fertility rate of two children per woman, rising marginally to 2.3 for Muslim women. It was also mentioned that India’s Muslim community would grow to 311 million by 2050. It is very clear in this respect that despite their growing share of the national population, Muslims would remain a small minority in a country of 1.7 billion people by mid-century but these statistics have has not stopped the spread of viral disinformation on social media platforms.
Conspiracy theories that allege a Muslim plot to secure the faith’s numerical supremacy in India have been a staple of Hindu nationalist ideologues for years. Similar theories of immigrants and minorities replacing majority populations have also been embraced by the far-right in other countries. At times the theories have been indulged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP which has come to dominate national politics partly through its muscular appeals to the country’s Hindu majority. BJP lawmaker introduced into parliament a population control bill in 2019 that proposed to limit all Indian households to two children garnering the support of 125 other MPs. The bill was withdrawn after critics accused the member of targeting Muslims when he gave a speech on the supposedly glaring disparity between Hindu and Muslim birthrates though this was an accusation he denied. Extremists however keep on harping that Hindus will get married once, and have two children whereas Muslims get married four times and have so many children that they can have their own cricket teams.
The BJP-inspired Indian media propaganda campaign against Muslims has gone to the extremes and it does not hesitate to resort to outlandish levels such as displaying an image of a grave with a padlocked grilled over it and mentioning that the incident occurred in Pakistan and was done in an effort to prevent necrophilia. The reports printed in mainstream media outlets including India Today, Times of India, Hindustan Times and NDTV state that some people in Pakistan had resorted to locking their daughter’s graves to protect them from sexual violence as the social environment had given rise to a sexually charged and repressed society. However, soon several Indian media outlets mentioned a tweet by ex-Muslim Harris Sultan, who also shared the same image on Twitter and alleged that it was taken in Pakistan.
In a fact-check it was pointed out that the image used by Indian media outlets was actually from a cemetery in India’s Hyderabad. It was added that the cemetery is located opposite Masjid-e-Salar Mulk, a mosque in Darab Jung Colony, Madannapet, Hyderabad attaching an image of the cemetery wherein the grave in question was clearly visible. It was thereafter clarified that the scarcity of space many relatives of the dead fear burial of other bodies and has placed grille there. Another source informed the media that the grille had been placed to prevent people from stamping on the grave since it was located right at the entrance.
This completely misplaced broadside from the Indian media speaks volumes about the bitterness it entertains for Pakistan and in the wake of their irresponsible and biased reporting the Reporters Without Borders has placed India below Pakistan where press freedom is concerned. It is very clear that the Indian media invariably and unabashedly toe the line of BJP and Modi regime and it is now generally accepted that the last ten years of Modi rule has been successful in taming the independent spirit of Indian media. The World Freedom Index places India at 161 out of 180 countries while Pakistan ranked at 150 nudging ahead a point since the last year though it still is far below the line.
There is certainly no denying the fact that in India, a compliant, corporatised mainstream media has worked diligently to project the BJP/Hindutva narrative, while those brave media persons and outlets that prioritise truth-telling over serving the rulers are hounded by the state. It is also noted that powerful business conglomerates with close ties to the ruling party have acquired most mainstream media outlets, ensuring that the patriotic narrative has muscled out alternative voices. The result is that screaming anchors often rail against Pakistan, while India’s Muslims are treated as a troublesome minority and are demonised and accused of sympathising with terrorists. Indian media is now taken to be a potent weapon in the hands of the rightist elements in the country with Modi regime spearheading the majoritarian onslaught. The Weekender
Fahad Ali is associated with maritime trade