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Persecution of Muslims in India and silence of the world

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Mahmudur Rahman

The ideological foundation of the ruling party in India is Hindu extremism. Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the two precursors of the BJP used Hindu majoritarianism coupled with unashamed propaganda of hate towards Muslims as the mobilizational plank during the British colonial era. Modern India began its journey as a constitutionally declared secular state after independence in 1947. However, by the late 1980s, there was a visible sign of the rise of pro-Hindu majoritarian sympathies that irreversibly strained the secular model of India. Successive Congress governments began pandering to the Hindu extremist groups setting the stage for the BJP to exploit the religious divide. The ugly face of religious extremism was displayed with all its ferocity in the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992 by the frenzied Hindu mob led by the senior leaders of the BJP. As religious hatred engulfed India in the wake of this barbaric act, thousands of people, mostly Muslims lost their lives in communal riots. Many of the leaders who participated in the demolition of the 16th century historical site would later become senior ministers in the first BJP-led government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998. The second senior most BJP leader in the Vajpayee cabinet, L. K. Advani personally led the mayhem in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. It is no surprise that Narendra Modi, the present Prime Minister of India is a disciple of L. K. Advani. He spent decades as a root-level worker of RSS before joining its political front BJP.

Modi, groomed by Advani, came into the international limelight by allowing Muslim pogrom in the 2002 Gujarat riot under his watch as Chief Minister of the State. He was accused of condoning brutal killings and rapes of Muslim men, women, and children as his administration assisted the rioters. Narendra Modi earned the title of Butcher of Gujarat and the US blacklisted him as there was widespread international outrage. However, the acts of Modi were conveniently, forgotten when he became the Prime Minister of India in 2014. The then US President Obama, his successor Trump, and the present President Biden were all seen warmly hugging the Indian leader with Muslim blood in hand.

Although Indian political leaders like to internationally project their country as the land of Mahatma Gandhi, in reality, India is now one of the most intolerant and supremacist countries in the world. Through a misinformation campaign and propaganda blitz, the ruling BJP has succeeded to persuade the majority of Hindus that India’s biggest problem is the presence of a 14 percent downtrodden Muslim community. To regularly win in various state and national elections, Modi has found a successful formula in the demonization of Islam. He has weaponized rabidly anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize his political base of Hindutva. Indian social media is filled with campaigns directly calling for the lynching of Muslims. A recent video that went viral showed a terrified and crying little girl clinging to her Muslim father as a Hindu mob assaulting and parading him through the street of a city in Uttar Pradesh. The video depicts the life of a common and poor Muslim in India. Over the last decade, the persecution of Muslims has been gradually normalized in India as the world watched in silence.

The Home Minister and the second most influential person in the Indian cabinet, Amit Shah terms Muslims as ‘termites’ and has publicly called for its elimination. This reminds equating the Jews with ‘rats’ in Nazi Germany. It is known to political pundits that RSS and BJP draw inspiration from the ideology of Italy’s fascist movement and Germany’s Nazi party. It is ironic that the same BJP leaders who regularly pay homage to Gandhi in international forums, glorify Nathuram Godse, the killer of Gandhi at home. They have even built a statue of the person who murdered Gandhi in 1948. With the rise of Modi, the Muslims in India, already suffering from decades of discrimination, have now become victim of intolerable persecution. The helpless Indian Muslims watched in horror the stomping on a Muslim corps by a Hindu journalist in full view of cameras, in Assam last year. Even during the visit of US President Trump to the Indian capital in February 2020, Muslims were dying in a brutal communal riot. The President of the country that takes pride in championing democracy and human rights around the world did not find it necessary to utter even a single sentence on the plight of the minority community in India.

As I am writing this editorial, the Muslim homes, Masjid, and business establishments are being mercilessly bulldozed in the Indian capital. During the last couple of days, Delhi police and civic authority have bulldozed scores of Muslim-owned houses and shops in a targeted demolition drive after yet another communal violence in New Delhi instigated by an extremist Hindu mob. The inhabitants of Jahangirpuri, a mostly poor Muslim neighborhood in the capital were seen yesterday searching through the rubble trying to collect their damaged belongings. A poor Muslim housewife lamented in front of a television camera that the BJP government does not want Muslims to live in India. Other than posting a few tweets, no major opposition leader took any initiative to help the victims. Islamophobic bigotry has absolutely consumed Indian society and politics.  As expected, the visiting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has followed the policy of US President Trump by maintaining complete silence on the persecution of the minority community in India while he enjoyed Modi’s hospitality.

In most of the states in the so-called Hindi belt, like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh, the administration is putting pressure on the Muslims to leave their ancestral homes where they have lived for generations. Many international media are raising concern about whether India is heading towards a genocide of the minority Muslims. Some media and human rights organizations have correctly started describing the situation in India as ‘religious apartheid’. During a US congressional hearing held in January this year, concern was raised about the existential threat being faced by the Indian Muslims. But, the Biden administration and other western governments remain tight-lipped. One may easily imagine what would have been the response of the same western leaders if similar persecution of minorities had taken place in a Muslim majority country. The hypocrisy of the so-called champions of human rights is well known and once again revealed in this case.

The indifference in the Islamophobic western world is understandable. But, the silence of most of the Islamic nations at the atrocities against the Indian Muslims is even more shocking. Many OIC member states have previously shown compassion for the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Uighurs in China. Unfortunately, the same compassion is missing in the case of Indian Muslims. The lure of the large Indian domestic market and geopolitical considerations have probably taken precedence over humanity and feeling for the Ummah. UAE and Saudi Arabia have recently signed multiple investment agreements of billions of dollars with India. Their leaders frequently rub shoulders with Narendra Modi without any visible expression of embarrassment. Iran has a commercial interest because India is one of its major buyers of crude oil. OIC has largely lost its relevance. Only Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia occasionally voice their concern about the atrocities against the Muslims in India. Under the present geopolitical situation, nearly 200 million Muslims can only pray to Allah SWT and try to stay alive by helping each other against a billion hostile Hindu population whose religious leaders are calling for genocide.

Editor, Amar Desh

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