Nabeel Zafar describes the incessant poisonous spread of xenophobia Hindutva resurgent
Hindutva resurgent in India is consistently descending into the depths of intolerance and with the passage of time, the descent is getting steep. As has happened since the Hindutva started to reign supreme the butt of all bitterness is the sizeable Muslim community facing atrocious consequences of the murderous hate-campaign. The latest outrage perpetrated on the Muslims was the baiting of a Muslim girl wearing hijab on her educational campus. Moreover, hell was raised by Hindutva activists on the farcical accusation that Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan spat on singing legend Lata Mangeshkar’s mortal remains while reciting a prayer. These are outrageous provocations as every effort is made to isolate Muslims and to subject them to violence.
These Hindutva resurgent outrages amply portray the depths of degradation India has fallen to after the ruling BJP started to control the levers of power. It is quite painful to watch the forces of secularism and tolerance besieged by the extremists of the Sangh Parivar, whose aim is to remake India in their destructive image and the fact that the Hindu hard right now has the firm backing of the state has brought this dream — a nightmare for India’s minorities — closer to realisation. It is now very clear that the xenophobic nature of the majoritarian Hindu mindset was always latent and it erupted in the desecrecation of Babri mosque followed by increasing anti-Muslim activities.
The hate has gone to feverish levels as was evident by the Shahrukh Khan incident that was an innocent gesture of respect was deliberately twisted by a BJP leader who falsely said that the Bollywood star spat at the funeral. This allegation was extremely ridiculous though this is not the first time that the popular actor has been targeted, while other Muslim celebrities in India have also had their patriotism questioned by the extreme right-wing Hindutva activists.
It is also the same case with the Hijab controversy that has become serious cause of concern for the state administration in Karnataka for not letting female Muslim students wear the garment to school. This is clearly not about academic discipline but a move to stamp out religious and cultural symbols and dictate what women and girls can and cannot wear. This attitude is no different than the one adopted by the Taliban and allied Muslim hardliners and was widely condemned on global level but such condemnation is lacking in respect of Hindu extremists in India.
The latest outrage was that a hijab-clad student was heckled and jeered at by a mob of Hindutva supporters in India’s Karnataka state compelling her to retaliate by shouting back “Allahu Akbar.” The video of the incident displayed that Muskan Khan parked her scooter in the parking of her college in Mandya and was subsequently beset by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mob which shouted at her and tried to surround her. Undaunted, she continued walking towards her college building in footage that soon went viral on social media. She stated later that since she started studying she has always worn the burqa and hijab and when she entered the class, she removed the burqa and the principal had said nothing and that this outrage was started by outsiders.
The harassment of Muskan Khan drew the ire of some Bollywood celebrities, media personalities, intellectuals and politicians who condemned the Modi government for taking the country to that low. They condemn bigotry inherent in the cumulative psyche of the Hindu majority and consider it as the cause of division on dress, food and religion. They pointed out that instead of worrying about creating more jobs the country is wasting its energy on deciding what dress is worn. They add that this incident revealed that a sizeable section of a rudderless generation is lost to hate and there is probably no turning back from this disastrous ours the country has taken.
In this context that it has been a month since the students of a state-run school in Karnataka’s Udupi district started their campaign after they were barred from entering their classrooms while wearing hijab. The story cascaded across the internet and the students began protesting outside the school gate attending their lessons. Instead of pacifying the situation, other schools also started enforcing a ban on the hijab, out of fears of RSS supporters who also simultaneously started shouting pro-Hindutva slogans to worsen the situation. The state machinery seemed to be helpless before the group. Instead, some ruling party members issued statements to defend the ban on the hijab which encouraged RSS members to provoke the situation.
Having failed to control the situation, Hindutva resurgent Karnataka Chief Minister announced the closure of all schools and colleges in the state for three days as the controversy over students wearing hijab on campus intensified, with violence reported from several districts. In some areas, Hindu girls wearing saffron shawls appeared in the colleges to protest against their hijab-wearing fellows and defend the ban. So far, several meetings between the staff, government representatives and the protesting students have failed to resolve the issue as the state’s education minister has also refused to lift the ban.
Hindutva resurgent Muskan’s incident was condemned by Pakistani politicians as well. The government ministers pointed out that depriving Muslim girls of education was a grave violation of fundamental human rights and that the world must realise that this is part of Indian state plan of ghettoisation of Muslims. They added that the Indian society is declining with super speed under unstable leadership. Nobel laureate and activist Malala Yousafzai also condemned the incident on the grounds that refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying calling for Indian authorities to stop the marginalisation of Muslim women.
The Hindutva is also made the butt of their extremism after several companies posted messages on social media to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day, commemorated annually by Pakistan on 5 February to honour the sacrifices of Kashmiris struggling for self-determination. These messages elicited tremendous uproar in the rightist circles highlighting the risks global companies face while navigating sensitivities amid rising xenophobia in India. Hyundai, India’s second-largest car seller, faced the most severe backlash with hundreds of social media users calling for an apology. Dozens in India also said they would cancel their car orders compelling the automaker to apologise. Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, said on Twitter that any political statements made by its dealers or other partners were not authorised and do not reflect its corporate stance.
It is more than evident that under Modi’s leadership, Muslims are viciously hunted down for allegedly eating beef, stripped of citizenship on flimsy grounds and prevented from performing prayers in public places. Now, schoolgirls are being targeted for wearing the hijab. In the wake of such outrages what is required is that the international community should impress upon India to stop this madness and allow the minority communities to live according to their religious and cultural norms, without being harassed. This alteration of course is not only a must for the sake of democracy but also for adhering to the principles of pluralism. However, for the moment it appears that the destructive march of Hindutva would continue indefinitely. TW
Nabeel Zafar works in the private sector