Asad Tahir Jappa
India propagates to be a secular state by virtue of its constitution but the fascist Hindutva ideology nullifies the tall claims of its phony secularism. The last nail in its coffin was hammered by none than the butcher of Gujrat, Modi who had rebranded himself as a mascot for ‘Incredible India’. But, in reality it was just that sham branding. Simmering under the carefully constructed veneer of democratic ideology, Modi’s Hindutva ideology was waiting for an appropriate moment to strike. His energized right-wing Hindu base loved the idea, giving him overwhelming majority in the May 2019 elections.
“This victory gave the Hindutva goons to take even bolder steps to entrench their ideology of hate. Next came the long-promised goal of revoking Kashmir’s autonomous status, in August of 2019. And with it, the wheels started to come off Modi’s Hindutva wagon. India’s right-wing fascist ideology was at display for the entire world to see. Even within India, the saner voices started to question Modi publicly. Muslims, Christians, even lesser caste Hindus, started to view their own State as enemy of the people. It is a fact of history that following independence, Nehru considered Hindu communalism to be the country’s top enemy; his fears were heightened after Nathuram Godse-a man associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological wellspring of Hindu nationalism-murdered Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. In contrast to secular political and territorial notion of India, Hindu nationalist ideology, first codified in the 1920s by V. D. Savarkar in Hindutva.
It envisages India culturally as a Hindu country and intends to transform it into a Hindu rashtra (nation-state). Hindus see themselves as the true sons of the soil, whereas they view Muslims and Christians as products of bloody foreign invasions or denationalizing influences. The demolition of the Babri mosque was a clear reflection of the Sangh Parivar’s anti-Hindu rashtra which necessitates the eradication of so-called foreign influences, as exemplified by the recent rechristening of cities that previously donned Islamic names, like Allahabad (which is now called Prayagraj), and more importantly, the “obliteration” of Islam and its proponents from the public sphere. The actions taken in this regard range from attempts at converting Muslims to Hinduism to preventing interreligious marriages.
The seeds of discord and division were sown immediately after partition of Indian Subcontinent. The history witnessed an alarming rise in communal riots between Hindus and Muslims which erupted in Ahmedabad in 1969. At least 1000 people were killed during this riot. At that time, there was a dispute over the leadership of the Congress party between Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai. There were suggestions that violence was deliberately engineered to discredit the chief minister of Gujarat who was a supporter of Mr. Desai. Likewise, in 1983, more than 2,000 Muslims, who were labeled as foreigners, were killed in the northeastern Assam state.
This blood-curling violence went on for six hours on Feb 18. Similarly, in 1984 during anti-Sikh riots which lasted for five days, reportedly 2,800 to 8,000 Sikhs were killed across India. The violence, however, was centered in Delhi. A series of anti-Sikh pogroms were launched after then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards. Adding salt to injury, Hindu mobs attacked and destroyed the historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya city of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The mosque was built by 16th-century Mughal Emperor Babur. Following this incident, wide-scale communal riots took place in Mumbai. The riots began on Dec. 6 and raged on for a month. Some 900 people were killed and 2,000 injured.
In 2002, during Gujarat riots nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the western state of Gujarat. Another 2,500 were injured as Hindu mobs went on a rape, loot and kill rampage. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were destroyed. Roughly, 150,000 people were displaced. The two-month violence took place when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state. It resulted in massacre of more than 100 Christians and torching of thousands of homes in Odisha’s Kandhamal district in 2007 and 2008, according to civil rights groups. In one particularly grisly incident, Graham Stuart Staines, an Australian Christian worker, and his two underage children, 10-year-old Philip and Timothy, 6, were burned alive by a group of people while the three were sleeping in a station wagon in Manoharpur village in eastern Odisha State’s Keonjhar district in 1999.
India was jolted by the deadliest communal violence in New Delhi in decades. The violence began on 23 Feb 2020, and lasted for several days, leaving at least 46 people dead in Delhi, the majority of them Muslims. It was the worst religious violence in India in years. It quickly emerged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Delhi police force his government oversees, had tacitly supported the mobs, who chanted Hindu nationalist slogans as they burned buildings and beat Muslims while police reportedly looked on.”
The trend we see across India is that a lot of the violence perpetrated against Muslims these days is actually perpetrated by subsidiaries of the Hindu nationalist movement,” says Thomas Bloom Hansen, a Stanford professor of anthropology who has studied religious identities and violence in India for three decades. “The government and the BJP can wash their hands and say, ‘we have nothing to do with it, these are just patriots acting on their own.” Ashutosh Varshney, a Brown University professor and author of the prize- winning Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, believes that recent riots in Delhi bear some of the hallmarks of an organized pogrom.”
In yet another biased move, the BJP pushed through a new citizenship law the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that makes it easier for all of South Asia’s major religions, except Islam. “India is now face to face with the darkest period in its history as an independent country,” Sumantra Bose, professor of international and comparative politics at the London School of Economics tells TIME. In a statement released by her publisher, Arundhati Roy, one of India’s most famous writers, compared the Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC to the Nazis’ 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which blocked Jews from German citizenship. There is a large body of evidence pointing to the fact that the RSS and its affiliated organizations have consistently played a leading role in organizing and inciting communalist hatred and violence.
Various judicial commissions of inquiry on communalist violence have pointed towards the RSS. For instance, the Judicial Commissions on violence in Tellicherry (1971), Aligarh (1978), Moradabad (1980), Sambhal (1980) blames the RSS for inciting violence towards Muslims. Institutional Bias; regarding the issue of protection of religious minorities against discrimination and existing mechanism for accountability Singh (2015:51) has argued: “The National Commission for Minorities constituted as late as 1993 – more than 43 years after the formation of the Indian Republic in 1950 – remains a mere paper tiger without the power and institutional infrastructure to track systematic inbuilt bias against religion minorities. Hindu majoritarian bias pervades the Indian constitution, bureaucracy, security forces, parliamentary institutions, judiciary, prison, academic institutions, health services, media and cultural and art organizations.
Furthermore, on the question of institutional communalism, Singh observes, “Institutional communalism became evident in the Supreme Court decision to award the death sentence to Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri militant who was secretly hanged on 9th February 2013. The bench deciding his case said that the death sentence was necessary in order to satisfy ‘the national conscience’, which is a surrender of legal reasoning to a structure of bias.” Likewise, Manisha Sethi also finds systematic bias in the workings of the intelligence agency and police in their dealings with members of the religious minority communities, particularly Muslims, who have found to be the victims of these government agencies during Hindu mob attacks.
He lamented at the divisive political dispensation of India, “in the case of terror attacks or communalist riots, if the police go after the perpetrators of violence, and they happen to mostly Muslims, you cannot, in the name of secularism, expect the police to act in proportion of their population.”