By: Muhammad Fahim
Not only me but millions of progressive thinkers used to criticize the partition project on the bases of religion and we used to romanticize the secular nature of the Indian constitution. However, since Modi’s assertion into the throne, he proved us all wrong and finally, Jinnah won after 70 long years. Since the inception of modern India, minorities, especially Muslims, have encounter scores of challenges in all spheres of life. Though Article 25, 29 and 30 of the Indian constitution bestows equal rights to all Indian citizens irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, and the language they speak, however, minorities have faced institutional bias and systematic deliberate neglect.
Media is a very influential tool in creating an image of a society, sect, religion, personality or country. It is the media that shape our collective and national minds. Muslims of India are always portrayed by the Indian media as regressive and fundamentalists. The Hindi language media has more aggrieve and negative stance pertaining to Muslims compare to the English press. The English press of India has a more balanced stance regarding Muslims than Hindi language media.
After the partition of India, Muslims majority Pakistan became an Islamic republic and India chose a secular path. The founder of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, used to say that Muslims and Hindus are two different nations based on their culture and religion. Nevertheless, millions of Muslims did not migrate to Pakistan and stayed in India. The upper-caste Hindus always accuse Muslims of dividing the country and never forgive them for the partition of India. Thus, Indian Muslims faced gross persecution for the sin that they never committed. The upper-caste Hindus never realized the fact that the Indian Muslims chose India over Pakistan by not migrating to the newly build state. Furthermore, the constitution gives full right to Muslims to practice their religion and language which is regarded by the Hindutva communalists as a danger to the country and they always yearned to amend the constitution but they did not succeed until Modi’s assertion into the throne in 2014.
With the demolition of Babri Masjid, a new phase of violence against the Indian Muslims started in 1992. The rise of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) marginalized the 200 strong Muslim minority. BJP, a political manifestation of RSS and Hindutva, treating the Indian Muslims as invaders. After the partition of India, the first notable communal violence occurred in Jabalpur in 1962. The official numbers of the people killed are 55, however, 200 is the unofficial score.
To debilitate the than Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s position, a faction of the National Indian Congress party engineered communal riots in Ahmadabad in 1969. According to the official numbers, 660 people died in the riots in which 430 were Muslims and 25 were Hindus. However, according to some other accounts, the numbers exceeded more than 200 in which 80% were Muslims. In the 1970s Bhivandi communal riots, 400 casualties were recorded, predominantly Muslims. After winning elections in 1977, a newly formed Janata party which later transformed into Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed a government. Under their watch scores of communal riots occurred from 1978 onward. These riots happened in Varanasi, Jamshedpur, and Aligarh, etc which was engineered by RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).
As stated earlier, BJP was the man drive force behind the Babri Masjid demolition. Scores of riots happened under their watch. After the demolition of Babri Masjid’s in 1992, a series of communal riots occurred in Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi, Kanpur, Bombay, etc. The then chief minister of Gujarat, the Incumbent Indian premier Narendra Modi, and his party BJP were the main drive force behind the Gujarat bloodletting of Muslims in 2002. Thousands of Muslims were butchered, houses were torched and women were rapped.
The violence against Indian Muslims is not just communal and physical but economic and political as well. Though, the India Congress Party tried to uplift socially and economically the marginalized Muslim community of India and to bring them at par with the majority Hindu population through different initiatives but the lack of will and the systematic bias against Muslims did not let the programs materialized. The Sachar Report which was headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar formed by the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, in 2005 documented the deliberate and institutional neglect of Muslims. There is no political established party that systematically highlights Indian Muslim grievances. However, every-now-and-then few secular elites of India do raise their voices against the deprivation and deteriorating conditions of Indian Muslims but vividly it’s not enough. This systematic deprivation of Indian Muslims ranges from police prejudice, prejudice against Muslims in the national educational syllabus, very little job opportunities in the public and private sector, to almost no political representation of Muslims in the country.
More than 76 percent of victims of hate crimes in India are Indian Muslims. The incumbent Hindu right-wing ruling party BJP encouraging Hindus to be cow vigilantes. Thus, Mob attacks against Indian Muslims grew manifold since BJP formed government in the center after winning the 2014 elections. They are calling Muslims as outsiders and declared the Islamic infrastructure in India as not Indian. They are changing the Islamic names of places, stations, buildings one by one into Hindu ones.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the State Department’s Country Reports [on India], the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and other international HR bodies reported the deteriorating conditions of Indian Muslims, especially under Modi’s regime. In an annual report in 2020, USCIRF has called for India to be put on a religious freedom blacklist. Modi’s regime is hard on Human rights activists. They are labeling dissent as anti-national. Hindu right-wing media is unleashed on Muslims to demonize them. USCIRF noted that police and law enforcement agencies’ abuse against minorities is the most common HR issue.
BJP is passing laws one after another from the parliament such as the Citizenship amendment act (CAA) and NRC which marginalizes and discriminates Muslims. They are trying to legally compel Muslims to either leave the country or remain second class citizens. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a very clear example of it. CAA permits all religious minorities from neighboring countries to apply for protection and citizenship in India except Muslims. During the recent visit of President Trump to India, the engineered riots and violence against Muslims in Delhi which claimed the lives of more than 50 Muslims is another manifestation of systematic marginalization of targeting one community on the bases of their religion.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the government tried to blame Tablighi Jamat (Muslims) for the spread of the virus across India. The incumbent government is fighting tooth and nail to shame and blame Muslims one way or another. This hate towards Indian Muslims can lead to genocide or social unrest in the country. But patently, Modi and the BJP do not care as long as they are in power.