Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam comments on Muslims bear the brunt of Indian rioting & increasing xenophobia in Modi’s India
Muslims bear the brunt of Indian rioting & India is consistently descending in 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. These outrages amply portray the depths of degradation India has fallen to after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (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.
Unfortunately the extent and range of Hindu extremism is increasing by the day as was witnessed after properties belonging to Muslims were set on fire when an unrest followed by the killing of a member of the Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal in Shivamogga in India’s Karnataka state. Karnataka, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP, has been on edge for several weeks after a ban on Muslim girls wearing the hijab in classrooms triggered protests and counter-protests that spread nationwide. There was violence in Shivamogga during the activist’s funeral procession even as authorities imposed curfew restrictions in the area. Several incidents of arson and rioting were reported as angry mobs pelted stones at business places owned reportedly by Muslims. Police fired in the air and used tear gas to control the angry crowd.
Law enforcement officials in the area — which has a long history of communal violence said that they had arrested two people and blamed old rivalries for the killing. The victim was also an active member of a group that seeks to protect cows — sacred for Hindus — and was severely criticised for a social media post depicting a pig in a mosque. One of the Muslim pupils in the original hijab protest in Udupi district said that her brother was attacked in a hotel. The Karnataka high court is currently hearing appeals against the hijab ban. In an interim order, the court imposed a temporary ban on the wearing of all religious symbols in schools. The row has heightened fears among Muslims in India with many saying they feel under attack by the Modi government and its supporters.
The BJP is well-known for its anti-Muslim attitude and polices as was amply borne out by the fact that when it swept to power in the largest Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in 2017 on Hindu-first agenda, it did not field a single Muslim candidate. That victory reflected the party’s dominance nationally since Modi stormed to power in 2014 after appealing to the Hindu majority. The main opposition Congress party complains that by putting Hindus first, he and the BJP discriminate against minorities and risk stoking violence. Modi has defended his record and says his economic and social policies benefit all Indians.
The hate has gone to feverish levels as was evident by the Shahrukh Khan incident that was an innocent gesture of respect but 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.
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 Hindu extremism would continue indefinitely. TW
Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam is an educationist with wide experience