Fahad Ali describes the
growing isolation of Muslims in India
Muslims have always been a persecuted minority in India but after the advent of BJP regime in 2014 Lengthening shadows of Hindutwa persecution has increased manifold. Despite consistent denials by the BJP and all other segments allied with it the fact remains that attempts to marginalise and isolate Muslims living in India and they have created an atmosphere of fearful manipulation aimed at harassing the Muslim population to a degree where they become completely subservient to the extremist Hindutwa precepts and practices. The xenophobic intents of Hindutwa is geared at not accepting any other set of people living amongst them particularly Muslims and they are determined to create a situation in which the Muslims forego their ideological underpinnings and merge them into the Hindu mainstream. All efforts are therefore made to ensure success of this policy and it is quite clear that this policy has now been translated into a practice that is now found practiced widely amongst a growing number of the majority population.
The clear manifestation of this extremist approach is reflected in the growing number of incidents taking place in India revealing the hateful sentiment harboured by Hindus against Muslims. It is reported from many educational institutions that Muslim students are accused of being terrorists during educational sessions not only by fellow students but also by the teachers. In a very recent incident a Muslim student at the Manipal University in India’s Karnataka lashed out at a teacher who allegedly called him a terrorist and a video of this incident became viral on social media. The young Muslim student strongly protested against the remarks of the teacher and agitated during the session pointing out that the teacher has no right to label him as such as he is almost like his son. When the teacher tried to dismiss his remarks as a joke, the student countered that it was not funny as being a Muslim he faces serious consequences of such utterances.
It was further reported that the professor later had a conversation with the student and issued a personal apology too and that the university has initiated a departmental inquiry against the teacher but the issue remains that such measures hardly set-aside the harm done to the Muslims in the country who face growing levels of accusations. Though the remarks of the teachers drew the ire of a number of Indian journalists and activists yet it again falls short of ameliorating the situation. It is very dangerous to observe the hatred and communalism reaching the places of learning that may pollute the minds of the younger generation and the effects of such a factor goes a long way. It is now widely known that there are many Muslim students who have been discriminated against, pigeonholed and are victims of biases of teachers and this practice is increasing by the day further complicating the situation.
This was the first instance of its kind as another incident of the same nature happened to 21-year old Humza Siddique an engineering student who berated his teacher telling him that it was not funny to crack jokes about his religious identity. In this case the teacher had compared Humza Siddique to Ajmal Kasab, the person who attacked Mumbai in 2008. Humza Siddique had a similarly traumatic experience in 2019 after five Muslims were killed in alleged police firing in Meerut in 2019, at the height of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The law which, for the first time, introduced a religious element into Indian citizenship law had sparked off demonstrations across the country. When the news of the violence reached his classroom, Siddique recalled his teacher turning on him and saying that these people [referring to Muslims] will never accept any law. Then the teacher looked at Siddique and said that Muslims like him know how to throw stones on which his class fellows started laughing.
The most worrying aspect of the problem is that like Humza Siddique many young Muslims said that they could relate to the experience faced by many Muslim students and against the backdrop of rising extremism in Indian society and politics, they too had faced hate inside the classroom, both from peers and, even more troublingly, from teachers. They feel claustrophobic within their academic institutions and fear for their physical safety as protesting against such accusations may result in their fellow students getting angry. They feel that they are accused of something they have no intention of doing but they cannot agitate against it for fear of reprisals. They complain that their complaints fall on deaf ears and they are boycotted by their classmates with their teachers also treating them badly. There appears to be no end to such a behaviour against Muslim students that is causing the communal divide to deepen by the day with no attempts witnessed to stem the tide of hatred against them.
It is also reported that a few days before the Manipal incident came to the fore, 21-year-old Haseena Bano, a college student from Balotra, Rajasthan, had a similar experience of her teacher making Islamophobic comments in class. According to her, on 21 November, her history teacher bought up the case of a violent murder in Delhi in which the main suspect is a Muslim. The teacher concerned said that these Muslims have no sense of mercy and that the Muslims believe that if they kill one Hindu they get rewards of one Hajj and if they kill two then they will get to heaven. He also asked students that Hindus should stay away from them as they are Pakistanis and terrorists. Bano said that she could not bear this Islamophobia any further and confronted the teacher to which he responded that it is written in the Quran.
The growing Islamophobia in India has been duly noted globally and at least 21 countries have urged India to improve its protection of freedom of religion and rights of religious minorities. Others have raised concerns over increasing violence and hate speech and the government’s adoption of discriminatory policies such as anti-conversion laws. In a joint statement six international human rights groups have reminded India that it still needs to implement the recommendations that are part of a recent UN report on India. The recommendations cover a range of key concerns including the protection of minority communities and vulnerable groups, tackling gender-based violence, upholding civil society freedoms, protecting human rights defenders, and ending torture in custody. They have also observed that the BJP government has made it lawful to discriminate against religious minorities particularly Muslims.
The human rights groups include International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They emphasised that the Indian government should promptly adopt and act on the recommendations that United Nations member states made at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process. It is also reported that during the periodic review, India’s fourth, 130 member states made 339 recommendations highlighting some of the most urgent human rights concerns in the country. Since its last review in 2017, India has undergone a serious regression in human rights under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The statement also observed that since Modi’s BJP came to power in 2014, it has taken various legislative and other actions that have made it lawful to discriminate against religious minorities, particularly Muslims and enabled violent Hindu majoritarianism. TW