Going by the BJP’s interpretation of Hinduism as a way of life, the writing on the wall is very clear for Muslims: When in India, Do as the Hindus Do.
By Rakesh Raman
In every election in India, Indian voters think they vote to elect a good political candidate over a bad one. But actually they elect the bad over the worse or worse over the worst, because most politicians here belong to only three categories: bad, worse, and worst.
Dishonesty, shamelessness, criminality, falsehood, corruption, cheating, illiteracy are among the common traits that politicians possess and with these traits they win elections.
One such election has just concluded in India in which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dethroned the ruling Congress Party which had done serious damage to India in the past 10 years of its rule in the country of 1.25 billion people.
BJP’s Narendra Modi, who has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat state, has now maneuvered to become the new Prime Minister (PM) of India. Using his assertive and arrogant tactics, he has sidestepped other ambitious leaders like L.K. Advani who were eying the top position. On Monday, May 26, Modi became the new PM, which is the highest government position in India.
[ Also Read: My Urgent Message for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ]
This political change would have brought an uneasy calm among the Muslims who live in India. Modi’s political party BJP is known for its pro-Hindu stance, which is also believed to be anti-Muslim. Although Hinduism is a religion of the majority of Indians, BJP, in an attempt to ostensibly look secular, has suddenly specified Hinduism as a way of life. Now, a Hindu means an Indian.
And as BJP has pledged to create India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation), it expects all Indians – even those who belong to other religions including Muslims – to behave like Hindus.
The new Hindu definition has come now from BJP. In the past, however, the party clearly showed its affection for the Hindu religion even by using violent means.
An attempt in 1992 by BJP and its affiliate Hindu groups to demolish the Babri Masjid (a Muslim mosque) in Ayodhya (considered to be the birth place of Hindu God Rama) and create a Rama temple there was one of the cases where BJP showed its aggressive love for Hindus and hate for Muslims. At least, 2,000 people were killed in that melee.
In order to assuage the hurt feelings of Muslims (rather, Muslim voters) and with the sole objective to win elections, subsequently BJP downplayed the temple issue. However, now after winning the Lok Sabha elections, the building of Rama temple in Ayodhya has again gained priority.
A few days ago, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – an affiliate group of BJP – leader Ashok Singhal said the new government will help restore “Hindutva’s lost rule” by facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. With such assertions by Hindu groups, caste- and religion-based unrest is again expected in India.
BJP and other Hindu organizations believe that after the elections, the role of Muslims is over. Muslims are being used only as voters by all political parties in India. They are neglected after getting their votes.
The construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya is just one of the cases that demonstrates the violent Hindu mindset of BJP and its supporters. Among the other such incidents, it’s alleged that in the 2002 Gujarat riots, nearly 2,000 Muslims were murdered besides there were incidents of rape, robbery, and widespread destruction of property affecting Muslims.
It was also alleged that the killings were executed at the behest of the new PM Narendra Modi who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Although Indian courts have almost exonerated Modi in this case, most Muslims in India still believe that Modi was responsible for Gujarat massacre.
According to Human Rights Watch, the attacks against Muslims in Gujarat were actively supported by state government officials and by the police. Police told Muslims, “We don’t have any orders to save you.”
As a result, the U.S. administration denied visa to Modi in view of the allegations of human rights violations against him in the 2002 incidents of riots and carnage. But now as he has become the PM of India, Modi is expected to get the U.S. visa.
Muslims have always lived in an atmosphere of neglect and fear in India after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. As compared to other religions, most Muslims are living in extreme poverty and a perpetual state of deprivation.
The Rajinder Sachar Committee, appointed in 2005 by the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was asked to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in India. The report revealed the backwardness of Indian Muslims.
Among its findings, the Sachar Committee report stated that the status of Indian Muslims is below the conditions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which are downtrodden communities in India. Plus, it said that the overall percentage of Muslims in bureaucracy in India is just 2.5% whereas Muslims constitute above 14% of Indian population.
BJP is particularly averse to Muslims. This was also evident in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The party had fielded only seven Muslims among its 482 candidates (1.45 per cent) and all of its Muslim candidates were defeated. It is the first time that a ruling party has no Muslims in the Lok Sabha.
As a neglected community, Muslims also fear all governments in India that treat them as refugees. After BJP’s Lok Sabha election victory, The New York Times quoted Zahir Alam, the imam of Bari Masjid, a mosque in East Delhi in India, who said, “Fear is a basic part of politics, and it’s actually how politicians gain respect, but for us fear also comes from the general public. The meaning of minority has never been clearer than it is today.”
Since BJP has the compulsions to play a vote-bank politics to keep Muslim voters with it, the party cannot afford to antagonize Muslims openly. However, it has unleashed its associated belligerent Hindu groups to intimidate Muslims at every possible opportunity.
For example, Pravin Togadia, a leader of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) was recently reported saying that Muslims should be stopped from buying property in Hindu areas.
Another BJP leader Giriraj Singh reportedly said that those opposing Narendra Modi had no place in India and should go to Pakistan, with an obvious reference to Muslims in India.
Currently, there are nearly 15% Muslims (about 190 million) in India’s population. They face BJP’s fury because some of the Muslim leaders have been outspoken against the Indian government, Indian Gods, and particularly BJP and Narendra Modi.
A couple years ago, Akbaruddin Owaisi, a Muslim Indian politician based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, held large public meetings attended by thousands of Muslims in India.
Owaisi spoke openly against Hindus, Hindu deities, BJP’s parent outfit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishva Hindu Parishad, BJP, and Narendra Modi, saying they are working against the interests of Muslims in India.
Other minorities like Christians and Sikhs are not quite vocal. So, BJP has not yet targeted them. However, there has always been a clear animosity between Hindu political outfits and Muslims in India.
There are many reasons for this politically projected hate among the two communities. For example, there have been multiple cases in the past when Pakistan – a Muslim nation – has been accused of terrorism in India.
These include Mumbai bombings that Dawood Ibrahim allegedly organized and financed. And now Indian government believes that he is being harbored and protected by the Pakistan government.
The 2008 Mumbai terror attacks are believed to be the handiwork of Muslim terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has support from Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI. Earlier, the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 was stated to be carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists. Indian side also alleges constant infiltration of militants from Pakistan in the Indian territory.
What exactly is happening? Only God knows the truth. The general public is made to believe what politicians, police, and media agencies want them to believe. It’s largely reported that terrorism is being executed with the help of Muslim outfits that reside in India or in Pakistan. And most acts of terrorism in India are blamed on Muslims. Obviously, Muslims are treated as enemies of Hindus (or Indians).
In general, only a handful of affluent Muslims and who are part of the mainstream politics are tolerated in India. Others are considered a burden on the Indian economic and social systems.
But now the onus will be on the new Modi-led BJP government to build a sense of confidence among Muslims in India. And even if BJP has the right intentions to bring Muslims into the national mainstream, don’t expect anything constructive in the near future. That may not be an optimistic view, but it’s certainly a realistic perspective.
For now, going by the BJP’s interpretation of Hinduism as a way of life, the writing on the wall is very clear for Muslims: When in India, Do as the Hindus Do, while “Hindu” is now another term for an “Indian.”
If Muslims want to survive and thrive in India, they have to fully understand the intent behind this message from BJP and live with a sense of belongingness in India. Otherwise, the coming days are going to be tougher for local Muslims. That’s for sure.
This article is part of our editorial initiative called REAL VOTER that covers political developments in India. Click here to visit REAL VOTER.