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Three years of hatred and bigotry against Indian Muslims and Christians

Civil society and secular parties must fight for the values laid down in the Constitution

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fought the 2014 general elections with Gujarat’s 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom famed Narendra Damodardas Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Openly backed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu nationalist and paramilitary volunteer organisation, the BJP came to power with a landslide victory. Its campaign slogan was “Achhe din aane waale hain” (Good days are coming soon), which projected that BJP will form a government that is pro-development and pro-good governance. Three years later, good days are nowhere in sight. Modi is now considered the biggest bluffmaster.

The Modi government is majoritarian and authoritarian in nature. The BJP, backed by RSS, has managed to sow the seeds of hatred and bigotry among the masses against minorities, namely —Muslims and Christians. It is now clear that anti-minority violence, the hallmark of BJP government, was never because of rogue elements. In fact, it is the mainstream ideology of the BJP and is appreciated by its supporters. Wearing a mask (or mukhouta), that is saying good things, but spreading hatred and promoting violence against minorities is something the BJP/RSS combine has mastered.

It is an open secret that the ultimate goal of RSS is to convert the Indian democracy into a Hindu rashtra. The Modi government has achieved a lot in this direction. Idolising Hitler and Mussolini, the dream which Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar saw, is becoming real with the conscious support of majority. He had said, “Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindudom, and the resurrection of our Hindu nation is bound to follow it as certainly as the dawn follows the darkest hour of night”.

The Hindutva ideology, which believes in worshiping the state, has attracted several Hindus in its fold. The level of communalisation of electoral politics has reached a point where mere presence of a Muslim candidate will polarise majority vote. The recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections has proved that secular parties have not understood that by abandoning Muslim representation they are actually helping RSS in making India a Hindu nation.

What’s even more alarming is that the sweeping victories of the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly and Delhi Municipal Corporation elections have convinced many Muslims to keep away from electoral politics. Seeing polarisation of the majority community votes, Muslims have been successfully pushed to punish themselves. Those advocating the cause say that Muslims should concentrate on education without realising that education will not save them in times of targeted violence, pogroms, and discrimination. Participation in electoral politics is the only way to ensure dignified survival of minorities.

Someone rightly said that the Modi government has allowed “holy” mobs to attack and kill Muslims and Christians as though the state is a certified abattoir. The judiciary seems completely oblivious of the need to intervene to protect the rights of minorities. Even after several atrocities against minorities under projects such as cow vigilantism, Love Jihad and Ghar Wapsi, the judiciary has failed to take suo motu cognizance.

The lesser discussed “achievement” of the Modi government is its attack on institutions that safeguard minorities. It has made National Commission for Minorities a dead institution— which has left with no member and chairperson. The commission had not done great in the past, but atleast there was a place for minorities to register their grievances, and the state machinery had to respond to complaints.

The Modi government has succeeded in blocking the thinking ability of the so-called “concerned India” from visualising the greater challenges ahead. The current dispensation is much more grass-rooted than the regimes of Nazi Hitler’s Germany and Fascist Mussolini’s Italy, as both regimes had no such organizations like RSS, backing them.

We do not expect any good from the present government. We also know that there is no possibility that it will change. But we definitely hope that civil society and secular political parties will change their own attitude and fight for the values laid down in the Constitution of India. They must understand that electoral victories of political parties will not save India. They have to strategise, not only to save people who are under attack, but also to save the country. Civil society and secular political parties cannot remain silent against the wrongs committed on Muslims and Christians in order to avoid negative voting by the majority community.

Apoorvanand, professor at the University of Delhi and social activist, is the first to dare to call Modi government’s “achievement” as a war on Muslims of India. He said that the fact that we are so reluctant to speak the ‘M’ word is proof of what has changed in India. Muslims plead not to utter their name for, it may infuriate many Hindus.

Today, naming atrocities against Christians is not considered an “anti-National” act by the Hindu Right wing, as is considered standing with Muslims. It is the responsibility of civil society and secular political parties to make general public understand the need to acknowledge and empathise with Muslims as victims. We should accept that not revealing Muslim identity is not just an omission, but is adding to the oppression. Erasing Muslims from the narrative reinforces a bigoted society’s desire to erase their existence. For opposing this bigoted desire of a section of society, we need to talk openly about Muslims and Christians, not just in select gatherings and brainstorming sessions.

We should learn from the American people, who are taking open stand against anti-Muslim policies of President Donald Trump. We should know that out of 323.95 million American population, the Muslim population share is only 0.9%. We should get inspiration from 20.9 million Americans, who came out on the streets in defense of Muslims, from the very next day after Trump took oath and tried to push his Islamophobic ideas.

As Mahatma Gandhi did, we must boldly call a spade a spade and stand against majoritarianism. Muslims in India must understand that they have no choice but to take the path of “rage, refuse and resist.” Behaving like an Ostrich will not end the storm.

 

Ovais Sultan Khan is a human rights, justice and peace activist in India.

 

P.S.: The edited version of this piece published in a Citizen’s Report by WNTA, which can be accessed here – http://bit.ly/2ryHh4t