FeaturedInternationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 18

Muslims and other minorities face a bleak future in India

Previously, India was recognised in the world for its secular democracy that was home to diverse cultures and religions. But, since the election of Narendra Modi as the 14th prime minister of India on May 26, 2014, India has become an increasingly intolerant Hindu racist state which practises open discrimination against Muslims and other minorities.

India has now transformed into a far right fascist society which is no longer a safe place for all minorities. Increased hate crimes against Muslims in recent times have led many to question what the future holds for them under the Hindu nationalist BJP government. Many BJP leaders have often outrightly supported perpetrators of religious violence, showing no empathy for the victims. Parvesh Verma, a prominent member of the BJP, celebrated his political victory in Delhi by vowing to his followers that he will not leave even a single mosque standing. On another instance, a video of a Muslim man being forced to eat pork went viral sparking outrage amongst the Muslim community. The Indian police arbitrarily arrests Muslim men and women, labelling their actions as anti-state for peacefully protesting against the government’s bias against religious minorities.

In December 2019, the Indian parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that paved the way for religious minorities from neighbouring Muslim majority countries to obtain an Indian citizenship. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan could seek an Indian citizenship, except Muslims. Using religion as a criterion for citizenship is a flagrant reflection of the intolerance that exists in Indian society. The CAA led to peaceful protests across the country, however, the protests were met with force and mass detentions. Nine students were arrested for protesting against the CAA under counterterrorism and sedition laws.

The BJP government restricted freedom of expression and took punitive measures against peaceful protests. The protestors were eventually left with no choice but to defend themselves against police brutality, resulting in false accusations of instigating violence and causing damage to public property by the Indian government. The Office of High Commissioner, Human Rights (OHCHR) declared the CAA “fundamentally discriminatory” and argued that if the Indian government aims to offer protection to persecuted religious minorities, it must happen in a non-discriminatory manner where no single religious group feels excluded. Home Minister Amit Shah labelled illegal Muslim immigrants in India as termites. There are Muslim families that have lived in India for generations but are unable to provide the “right evidence” to declare their Indian citizenship.

The Covid-19 pandemic allowed the government an even greater authority over the nation. Under the Disaster Management Act, a nation-wide lockdown was imposed allowing the government complete control over all public action and movement. The draconian law restricted people from stepping out of their homes even under extreme urgency. The police started arresting people belonging to religious minorities, low castes, low-wage workers or other marginalised groups on false charges. A Muslim man, who stepped out of his home to buy essentials, was arrested and beaten to death by the police. In another incident, two low-income workers were tortured to death under police custody for keeping their small shop open during the lockdown. There is no accountability of the police force for their extremely discriminatory, unlawful use of force and violence as they operate under the support and guidance of a Hindu racist government.

The BJP government continues to influence the Hindu majority into identifying religious minorities as anti-state. The government uses the media as a tool to inculcate an anti-Muslim bias amongst the masses. On April 14, 2021, the India Today posted two contradictory tweets on its Twitter account, one that celebrated the participation of thousands of people at the Hindu Kumbh festival, however, the second post criticised the non-compliance of Covid-19 SOPs as Muslims gathered to pray at Hyderabad’s Makkah mosque on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. The Indian media’s bias is now becoming increasingly common and, therefore, noticeable. Despite the BJP government imposing a stringent lockdown, it is ironic that Uttarakhand CM, Shri Tirath Singh Rawat facilitated a Hindu festival with approximately 3.5 million people participating.

Muslims in the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir continue to suffer at the hands of the police and paramilitary forces let loose by New Delhi. Any form of dissent from the official narrative is not tolerated. Journalists in held Kashmir are physically attacked by the police or arrested for doing their professional duties. Anuradha Bhasin, Kashmir Times editor, challenged the communications blockade in the Supreme Court, as a result the office of the newspaper was shut down without any prior notification. A recent amendment to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) prohibits bigger NGOs from passing funds received from foreign donors to grass-roots organisations. This has led to all FCRA-registered non-profit organizations limiting their expenses, reducing staff and eventually reducing human rights work.

Whether it is India’s low caste Dalits and Adivasis or religious minorities, including Muslims, the world is witnessing a new wave of hate, suppression and intolerance under Modi’s Hindu nationalist rule. Hindutva politicians continue to deepen the division of society for narrow political and electoral gains. From the ugly turn Indian society has taken under RSS-BJP rule, one can conclude that the Quaid-e-Azam was really a visionary leader who foresaw what would be in store for Muslims under Hindu-majority rule. The Delhi riots, in which dozens of mosques were torched, amply proved the validity of the two-nation theory on the basis of which Pakistan was created.