By Shaikh Tabinda
April 13th, 2022
India is known as the "land of festivals" because of its many celebrations, and the country's culture is reflected in this. Because of the richness and diversity of our country's history and culture, many of our major festivals are an expression of this. Sadly, this is not the case in reality. As a result of internal strife, India has become a more hostile place to live in recent years.
India is currently experiencing a double festival season, with both festivals occurring simultaneously. In contrast to Muslims, who fast and pray in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan, Hindus celebrate Navratri and Ram Navami, which both occur during this month of religious festivals. But when Ram Navami processions take place across India, it appears that Hindu nationalist groups are less interested in celebrating their festival than in stirring up bigotry.
Hindutva* groups made a concerted effort to incite racial animosity during Ram Navami processions in several Indian states, including Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Delhi.
Attacks on Muslims have been reported in a number of locations throughout India. Mosques are being burned down. Property is being harmed. Stones are being hurled in the direction of the target.
There was an uncanny similarity in the pattern of commemorations in all states: A large procession was organized and instructed to travel through Muslim-dominated areas. The routes were deliberately designed to pass through Muslim locales. Provocative, anti-Muslim songs were blasted using loudspeakers. Hindu men were seen causing a commotion by dancing with swords and guns to the music in front of the mosques.
Slogans were chanted:
JO RAM KA NAAM NA LE USKO BHARAT SE BHAGANA HAI.
Those who does not take the name of Ram will be thrown out of the country.
Song lyrics included:
Pakistan mein bhejo ya qatleaam kar dalo, aasteen ke saanpon ko na dudh pilakar palo.
(Send them to Pakistan or kill them, don't feed the sleeve snakes with milk)
Jis din jaag utha Hindutva, toh anjam bolega, topi wala bhi sar jhuka ke, jai shree Ram bolega.
(The day Hindutva awakes, the end result will speak. The man in the cap will also say Jai Shree Ram with a bowed head.)
Jiss din khoon khola mera, dikha denge aukat teri. Fir toh hum nahi bolenge, bas bolegi Talwar meri.”
I'll show you your position the day my blood boils. Then neither of us will speak; only my sword will.
Violence In Gujrat
Adding to anti-Muslim feelings on the occasion of Ram Navami, communal clashes were reported in two Gujarati cities, Khambhat and Himmatnagar, in which one person was killed, and another was injured.
On social media, a video showed Hindutva gangs in Chappi village with saffron flags held high in their hands, dancing and playing loud music in front of Aqsa Mosque.
Minara Masjid Bardoli, located in Surat, was another location where a similar event occurred. In front of the mosque, the same Hindutva goons were seen dancing and singing.
Even the Dargah in Himmat Nagar was set on fire, and Sanghi goons were seen with swords in their hands, defiling mosques and destroying Muslim holy sites.
Songs lyrics included:
Kisi bhi ulla mulla ka zor yaha nahi chalta hai
(The force of any ulla mullah does not work here)
Teri masjid aur mazaro se Vande Matram gunjega.
(Vande Mataram will resonate from your Masjid and Mazar)
Violence in Madhya Pradesh
The situation in Madhya Pradesh was much worse. The procession group threw stones and danced in front of mosques. Muslim vehicles and houses were set ablaze and burned. On Monday, bulldozers and JCB bulldozers demolished more than 50 houses and shops in the curfew-hit Khargone and Sendhwa districts.
An incident of Hindutva hooligans also set fire to the home of an elderly Muslim widow. She, along with her four daughters, live entirely by themselves. She earns a living by weaving flowers into garlands and selling them to the public. After her home was looted, including the jewelry she had saved for her daughter's wedding, and her home set on fire, she was forced to flee.
Another incident that needs attention occurred in Anand Nagar. The Hindutva mob armed with swords and sticks attacked Mehrun Bee and her daughter Zubeda. Injuries to Bee were so severe that she required a minor surgical procedure. The thugs also broke into their homes and stole everything they owned.
And the swordsman who struck her was her neighbor.
The night before the attack, locals believed their area was safe. As a result, they went about their business as usual, paying little attention to the violence that was taking place nearby. However, who knew that their own neighbours would turn into their adversaries.
Many houses and business of Muslims were burnt down, and residents were dragged outside and beaten up in Khargone and Sendhwa.
Violence In Jharkhand
Stone-pelting and arson attacks on Ram Navami processions were also reported in Lohardaga district in Jharkhand. Three people were critically injured in the conflict. The Print reported that one severely injured man died on Monday and 12 sustained injuries. In the Latehar district, the deceased was a local.
Violence in West Bengal
On Saturday, communal violence also erupted in the Shibpur area of Howrah, West Bengal. According to reports, ten people were injured, with one in critical condition, and 17 people were arrested as a result of the incident. The police used a lathi-charge to subdue the crowd.
The clashes were also reported from Bankura, West Bengal. Police told people participating in the procession that they couldn't march in front of mosques. However, they refused and removed police barricades to get through. Some people also threw rocks at the police station.
Violence in Karnataka
Following a rally organized by Hindu groups in Gulbarga, Raichur, Kolar, and Dharwad districts, several incidents of vandalizing mosques and Muslim-owned buildings were documented on Sunday.
Violence in Uttarakhand
In Dada Jalapur village, located in the Bhagwanpur area of Roorkee, the same pattern was repeated. As a result of the unrest in Roorkee where communal violence erupted on April 16th, right-wing organization Kali Sena called for more violence. The group claimed that if Muslims are not defeated, they would "protest aggressively."
On April 29th, Hindutva groups began marching toward the Bhagwanpur toll plaza in Dada Jabalpur village, singing the Hanuman Chalisa. Rajeev Joshi, a participant in the genocide calls, threatened the district administration: "If these Muslims are not prosecuted, if the administration does not bury them, then Kali Sena will come here from all over India and protest aggressively."
According to Mohd Abid, from Dada Jabalpur village: “Children have been hungry for four days. The damage they've done to us is immense. They set fire to our rickshaw and car, robbed us by breaking into our home, we were attempting to save our lives, they also beat my brother. There was no mistake on our part, and we have no idea why they are doing this to us. Many villagers fled their homes in order to save their lives.
Hindutva vigilantes eventually set fire to Abid's car and rickshaw. He relied on both to make a living. Even his valuable belongings were taken.
There were numerous other heartbreaking incidents that occurred throughout the cities, leaving people with an ocean of emotions, broken hearts, fear, a searing cry, irreparable damage inflicted on their lives, and scars that will last forever.
Because of the hatred surrounding India's courts and movie theatres, fear is taking hold. My sadness is becoming more apprehensive each day. In this day and age, dark forces appear to be more powerful than ever. Every festival of the majority community, every election, and every anti-Muslim film poses a threat to the lives of Muslims. Muslims are experiencing a deterioration in their living conditions in India.
All aspects of Muslim religion and identity, from the Masjid to the Athaan (call to prayer), to the namaaz (prayer) to the hijab, have been or are currently targeted. Our clothing, as well as what we consume, is also a question in this country.
A dreadful genocide campaign is underway in this country. The unrelenting onslaught of attacks against Muslims is a component of that operation.
*The term Hindutva refers to the political ideology based on nationalism. It is different from, and should not be confused with, the religion of Hinduism.
About the author
Shaikh Tabinda is an MBA student in Mumbai. An active participant and face of the CAA-NRC movement in Mumbai during the pan India NRC movement, Shaikh has been actively raising their voice against Islamophobia and persecution of Muslims in India. Shaikh also works on the ground for marginalized communities with various NGOs for the past few years.
Democracy for South Asian Minorities Panel Discussion, organized by SARIM
By Tazeen Hasan
Last month, I was honoured to share a panel with scholars from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan that was organized by thinktank South Asian Research Institute for Minorities (SARIM).
The webinar was titled "Democracy is Meaningless for Minorities in South Asia”. The topic reminded me of a graduate course titled 'Democracy and its Discontents' at Harvard Kennedy School in Spring 2019.
The course was about the apparent failure of democracy as a system after the end of the cold war. Interestingly, this was one of two courses I attended during my graduate program that changed my worldview in support of democracy and democratic values. In the beginning of the course, we were introduced to several articles by renowned political scientists about the disappointments that the democratic world is facing in the aftermath of the cold war. And finally, we were given an assignment to write about the most significant threat to democracy in the 21st Century.
I have been writing about the immigrant crisis since 2014 and the anti-immigrant politics that dominated the western world. The choice for threats to democracy was obvious. On the other hand, as a daughter of immigrant parents from India, I had observed the anti-Muslim Hindutva politics in India very closely.
Today's most significant threat to democracy in India is right-wing populism based on racial supremacy and religious extremism. This has ultimately led to fascism and neo-nazism in the region. From India to Germany, right-wing populism is rising in countries considered “liberal democracies”. These populists are driven by anti-immigrant sentiments, mainly against Muslim immigrants in the western hemisphere.
In India, this populism is primarily based on religious extremism and directly attacks Muslim minorities without any disguise. The general political scenario is mired with Islamophobia:
Right-wing religious extremism is no doubt rising in every region of the world. Still, nowhere is it as vivid and brutal as in India, which is considered the largest “democracy” in the world. Those Hindutva leaders belonging to the Sangh Parivar, associated with the ruling BJP party, openly call for a Muslim genocide.
Hindutva Nationalism and Vigilantes in India
Scores of Muslims and Dalits have been lynched by Hindutva mobs on the accusation of cow meat consumption. Minorities, particularly Muslims, have a disproportionate share among the inmates in the prisons. Hindutva mobs have attacked Christian churches. Peaceful Sikh protestors are considered terrorists by Hindutva supporters. The Dalits are being thrashed publicly.
The BJP government has not only granted impunity to these Hindutva groups but has also sanctioned them directly. Amnesty International, one of the most prominent human rights groups, has been forced to shut down its operation by the government of India. The monitoring staff of United States Religious freedom USCIRF are denied visas.
Moreover, for decades, India has denied United Nations observers access to Indian-administered Kashmir since decades. In 2019, after the revocation of Kashmir's autonomous status, the U.N. staff, U.S. diplomats, and any other foreign observer were denied access to Kashmir. One doesn't need to be a geopolitical expert to realize what India is trying to hide behind the portal of a peaceful, tolerant, and pluralistic democracy.
Indian diplomats, advocates, Bollywood have successfully portrayed itself as a nation built upon the Gandhian ideology of nonviolence and coexistence. The reality is with every passing day; it is becoming more and more difficult for minorities to survive in India.
Here comes an interesting dilemma: if democracy is not failing, why is it meaningless or irrelevant for minorities of the largest democracy in the world?
Why is it happening in the so-called largest democracy in the world? To answer this question, we will have to reconsider the definition of democracy. Is 21st century India a democracy? Do the regime and society follow democratic norms, or do they possess essential ingredients of democracy?
Democracy is the rule of people, by the people, for the people. The Kennedy School course made me realize that this system has many flaws and loopholes; some are non-rectifiable. Even with all its weaknesses and shortcomings, I’ve learned democracy is still the best political system man has ever experimented with.
Democracy is considered the rule of the majority by default, which allows tyranny of the majority. In reality, the electoral system that enables the tyranny of the majority is not democracy but majoritarianism.
On the other hand, constitutional democracy does protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of everyone, including minorities.
Besides a transparent electoral system, a democratic system has some crucial ingredients: The rule of law, such as independent courts, which provide guarantees for:
When I look at the post-colonial history of India, I feel deep respect for the secular vision of Jawahar Lal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar. Unfortunately, 21st century Modi's India is not based on Nehru's vision. Instead, it reflects A. D Savarkar's ideology of Hindutva.*
It is not democracy that is irrelevant or meaningless, but the lack of the rule of law and respect for constitutional protection, that leads to the persecution of minorities.
*A disclaimer is necessary here. Hindutva and Hinduism are not the same. While Hinduism is a religion with thousands of years of coexistence with other religions and ideologies, Hindutva is an extreme right-wing ideology. Hindutva claims India belongs to Hindus only, and that other religious groups should either assimilate themselves in Hindu culture, or accept second-class status and face the tyranny of the majority.
India: A So-Called Secular Democracy Where Vishwa Hindu Parishad Members Drag Passengers out of a Train on 'Love Jihad' Accusations
Love Jihad is a term used by some radical groups to describe relationships between Muslim men and Hindu women. The concept is based on a conspiracy theory that Muslim men lure Hindu women to convert them to Islam. Interfaith marriages have been banned based on forced conversions in Uttar Pradesh, the most prominent Indian State.
Photo Courtesy: SKG Photography
Imagine a secular and liberal democracy where family friends belonging to different genders cannot travel together, because this act depicts them as committing a crime in the eyes of the law.
According to reports by Indian media, three members of Vishwa Hindu Paresh, a Hindutva organization and an important member of Sangh Parivar, dragged a Muslim man and his Hindu traveling companion out of a train, accusing the former of 'love jihad.'
The Love Jihad conspiracy theory transformed into an anti-conversion law against Muslims in India. Hindutva followers enjoy impunity to humiliate, beat, and drag passengers to the police station.
Love Jihad is the name given by BJP-affiliated organizations called Sangh Parivar, to fabricate the conspiracy that Muslim men “lure” Hindu women to convert them to Islam. Interfaith marriages have been banned practically on the accusations of forced conversions in Uttar Pradesh, the most prominent Indian State ruled by a BJP Chief Minister who has publicly promised a “Muslim-free” India in his election campaign.
Notably, the law came into force days after the Chief Minister promised to fight against "love jihad." This is nothing but lawfare. A war fought with the help of legislation. The persecution of minorities was planned and perpetrated by lawmakers.
79 of 86 people booked under the new law are Muslims, Hindustan times reported. A total of 86 persons were booked in 16 First Information Reports (FIRs) since the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020.
According to the news, 'in a video shot by local channels, the VHP members can be seen forcibly taking the two passengers to Ujjain railway police station for questioning. En route, they are beating Shaikh (the Muslim train passenger).'
Police make the passengers wait until their parents arrive from their hometown Indore, 65 kilometres away from where they were forced to leave the train.
Muslims: A vulnerable minority in India
Ironically, both passengers refused to register complaints, probably out of fear. Furthermore, the Railway Police did not take action against the VHP members either.
The fact that the passengers did not file a police complaint and the police did not take any action against VHP members tells enough about the vulnerable circumstances the Muslims are facing in so-called secular India.
In the viral video, the three VHP men can be seen thrashing Shaikh while dragging him from the AC coach of the train on the way to the police station.'
Ironically, the fact that this happened in India, which is considered the largest liberal secular democracy by the outside world, is enough evidence that the world has intentionally shut its eyes from the reality of India.
Indian diplomats, Bollywood, and right-wing Hindutva speakers portray India as a peaceful, tolerant, pluralistic society based on Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy. The reality is, India is the worst majoritarian state disguised as a secular democracy where minorities live in constant fear from extremist elements impacting their lives, self-respect, and property.
The Sangh Parivar
Leaders of the Sangh Parivar, an amalgamation of organizations run by adherents of Hindutva and supported by the ruling BJP government, are publicly calling for genocide.
Vishva Hindu Parishad is one of the most active and public proponents of the genocide against Muslim minorities.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is supporting such organizations actively participating in genocide.
Also, it is interesting that the VHP, whose leaders enjoy impunity by the ruling BJP government in their rhetoric against the Muslims, also enjoys a respectable position among the highest political echelons of the western world.
In January 2022, Prime Minister Trudeau sent a congratulatory message to the Inauguration Ceremony of the Hindu Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Canada. Ironically, this organization that actively supports genocide in India is allowed to work freely in Canada and other western countries, and collect funds for their genocidal operations in Canada.
Notably, the head of the Hindu Chamber of Commerce, Naresh Chavda, is a VHP supporter. Ironically, it is the same VHP whose leaders repeat ad nauseam calls for Muslim genocide at their public events
Trudeau was not the only politician who sent messages to the newly formed Hindu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Head of the Conservative Party, Erin O'Toole, and Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, also sent congratulatory messages to the event.
Notably, Indian organizations like the VHP openly talk about killing Muslims. Still, when they operate in the western world, they work under the banner of humanitarian causes, charity or commerce, and industry.
The Western world should open its eyes and stop supporting the genocidal regime of BJP and its affiliated Sangh Parivar and their foreign counterparts operating in the western world in the disguise of charities and organizations, business, and commerce.
These charities are the funding sources for the future Genocide, most likely multiple genocides in India.
The support VHP enjoys in the Western world is not new. According to an article on Harvard University, in 2007, the New Zealand Prime Minister attended a conference organized by VHP.
According to the article, 'New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark has been criticized for attending a conference organized by the Hindu Council of New Zealand in Auckland last week. The group is alleged to have strong anti-Muslim views and links with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu radical outfit.'
'Sapna Samant, a filmmaker who attended the conference, claimed Muslims were condemned during the event, which was opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark. She questioned how Clark could have been involved in such an event, thestuff.co.nz reported.'
The Western world should reevaluate its stance and attitude of ignoring India's crimes against humanity.
Humiliating episodes, like dragging passengers from a train and taking them to the police station, is a new norm in India supported by laws like Love Jihad.
Being silent, the world supports this anti-Muslim legislation and the genocidal regime of the BJP, which provides impunity for these crimes against humanity.