“Five years ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power on promises to deliver jobs and development to this nation of more than 1.3 billion people. He also espoused a brand of religious nationalism that views India as fundamentally a Hindu nation and rejects the secularism promoted by the country’s founders” writes Joanna Slater the India bureau chief for The Washington Post in her report from Gurugram, published in Washington Post on May 13, 2019.
Asserting that selling meat has become a risky business in India today, she cites the story of Abdullah Ashraf. She writes, ‘For Abdullah Ashraf, the changes in his country can be measured by the things he no longer does.
He never used to worry about wearing clothing that could identify him as Muslim. Now, when he goes on a road trip, he sticks to wearing jeans and a T-shirt. After his family celebrated a major holiday, they would bring goat meat from the feast back from the countryside. Today, it is a risk they will not take: The meat could be mistaken for beef by self-described “cow protection” vigilantes.
Claiming that ‘such concerns — the unease about travel, the possibility of being assaulted — were not part of his life before the current government came to power, the writer states, ‘Until last year, Ashraf, 32, gathered in a park near the office of his outsourcing company for midday Friday prayers. Then Hindu extremists targeted such outdoor meetings in this suburb of Delhi that epitomizes India’s economic rise. They brandished sticks, shouted slogans and shoved worshipers. Now Ashraf prays in a spot designated by the police: an unpaved parking lot studded with rocks.’
The report added ‘In the current campaign, senior BJP leaders have engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric. Meanwhile, reports of violence by Hindu extremists have increased in recent years, including lynchings in the name of protecting cows, which are considered sacred by some Hindus. The lack of prompt condemnation by Modi further unsettled the Muslim community: He directly denounced such violence two years after the first prominent case shook the country.’
The author states, ‘Here in Gurugram, a city that underwent a dizzying transformation from farmland to gleaming office parks, the changes in the past five years are less about violence than an increasingly assertive Hindu identity. In 2016, the city changed its name from Gurgaon to Gurugram — village of the guru — to emphasize a putative connection to Hindu mythology. Meanwhile, right-wing Hindu activists have pressured meat shops to close and pushed to limit the spots available for weekly prayers for the growing Muslim community.’
She quotes Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political scientist and vice chancellor of Ashoka University saying “India will become an irrevocably majoritarian state,” if Modi returns to power with a strong mandate.
Citing the incident of right-wing Hindu activists demanding closure of meat shops during the Hindu festival of Navratri and the issue of objection on Muslims holding Friday prayers in places across the city, including in parks, plazas and on vacant land in Gurugram, the report elaborated how the space is shrinking for Muslims in Modi’s India.
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