Relentless pressure on
Indian Muslims



May 22, 2022

Relentless pressure

Umair Jalali shows worry about
increasing pressure exerted on Muslims in India

After the advent of BJP in India as a political force that soon grabbed government through majoritarian democratic tendencies in the country, the Muslims are under relentless pressure. Their freedom is severely curtailed as a community and the restrictions on their religious affairs are increasing by the day. The prevailing sentiment in the majority community has shown that the religious-based toxic narrative whipped up by the ultra-right political party in power is showing no signs of abating. Actually the social polarisation is 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 viciousness on the country.
In this context, a court banned large Muslim prayer gatherings in one of north India’s highest-profile mosques, after a survey team found relics of the Hindu god Shiva and other Hindu symbols there. The judge at the court in Varanasi — Hinduism’s holiest city and the site of the historic Gyanvapi mosque — ruled that Muslim gatherings there should be limited to 20 people. The court ordered the survey of the mosque after five women sought permission to perform Hindu rituals in one part of it, saying a Hindu temple once stood on the site. The Gyanvapi mosque, located in the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is one of several mosques in northern Uttar Pradesh that Hindu hardliners believe — in common with some other religious sites — was built on top of demolished Hindu temples.
Police said the court order would help maintain law and order at a time when hardline Hindu groups tied to Modi’s BJP had stepped up demands to excavate inside some mosques and to permit searches in the Taj Mahal mausoleum. Leaders of India’s 200 million Muslims view such moves as attempts to undermine their rights to free worship and religious expression with the BJP’s tacit agreement. To cap it all, BJP Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister mentioned that the government welcomed the court order and will implement it. It would be worthwhile to mention here that in 2019 Indian Supreme Court allowed Hindus to build a temple at the site of the disputed Babri mosque that was demolished by extremist Hindus in 1992 on the pretext that it was built by the Mughals on the site were Hindu lord Ram was born, an incident that led to widespread communal riots killing nearly 2,000 people of who Muslims constituted majority.
This judicial decision has come soon after the Allahabad high court has ruled that the use of loudspeakers, to deliver Azan in mosques is not a fundamental right. The court’s observation came in response to a petition filed by Muslims pleading for quashing an executive order issued on behest of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh to stop loudspeakers from relaying Azan publicly. The court observed that although Azan is an integral part of Islam, delivering it through loudspeakers is not a part of the religion. It added that the law has now been settled that the use of loudspeakers from mosques is not a fundamental right and then went ahead and dismissed the petition. The Uttar Pradesh government’s decision had come at a time when use of loudspeakers by mosques has been made into a political issue. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, whose party has just one seat in the state’s 288-member assembly, has demanded that loudspeakers at mosques in the state be removed failing which the Hanuman Chalisa would be played at a higher volume levels outside mosques.
In recent weeks, a senior BJP leader began pushing for swapping marriage and inheritance laws based on religion with a uniform civil code, taking aim at rules that allow Muslim men, for example, to have four wives. The communal polarisation has gone to extreme ends as was evident by the intercession of Indian Supreme Court to stop demolition shops and walls around a mosque in a predominantly Muslim area of New Delhi near the site of clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Most communal clashes occur due to the demolition drives that Muslims of India take as attempts to intimidate India’s 200 million Muslims. A three-judge panel of Supreme Court ordered a stay on tearing down structures which was led by a civic authority affiliated with the BJP and carried out under the protection of police and security forces. Several Muslim residents at the site said area shopkeepers were not given advance warning about the operation. Earlier several homes and shops were torn down in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and western Gujarat state in the aftermath of communal violence on the day of another Hindu festival. It is important to note here that both these states are ruled by the BJP. TW

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Umair Jalali teaches in Denning Law School and is an avid sports fan


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