In the previous part of the report, physical (direct) and structural (indirect) aspects of communal violence in 2022 were discussed. In this part, symbolic violence that took place in 2022 will be discussed.
Irfan Engineer and Neha Dabhade
SYMBOLIC violence, the term, was coined by Pierre Bourdieu to describe non-physical violence that manifests in power differentials between social groups. The term symbolic violence, as understood in subsequent scholarship, is used to describe ideologies, words, behaviours and non-verbal communications that produce, reproduce, and legitimise power relations in everyday practice. Symbolic violence underpins dominance as part of the “natural order,” and conditions that enable prejudice and discrimination and other more visible forms of violence. Moreover, victims can internalise these power relations and hierarchies, both accepting their domination as legitimate, and normalising the violence being perpetrated against them.
Thus, symbolic violence can be understood to be invisible, insidious and imperceptible. It is an effective tool of domination as rightly pointed out by Thapar- Bjorkert, Samelius and Sanghera (Thapar- Bjorkert, Samelius, & Sanghera, 2016). In India, symbolic violence is perpetrators by Hindu right wing ideology which influences the dominant discourses. These dominant discourses which are marginalizing the vulnerable are internalized, normalized, and going unquestioned. Symbolic violence is perpetrated prominently through hate speeches, promotion of Hindu religious symbols and symbolism including festivals, places of worships, pilgrimages etc, renaming public places to eliminate or erase the cultural influences emanating from other religions other than Hindu religion and most importantly, the speeches and call for discriminatory action against marginalized. These mediums indirectly perpetrate violence, inequality and hegemony through symbols and discourse. In 2022, communal violence was starkly manifestly in these mediums of symbolic violence.
Here, we will discuss four areas through which symbolic violence is perpetrated- 1. State Expenditure on Hindu symbols and temples 2. Hate speeches 3. Social and Economic Boycott and 4. Renaming of places having Muslim influences in the names
1. State Expenditure on Hindu symbols and places of worship
The state in 2022 was seen promoting Hindu temples and spending large sums of money from state funds to promote them. The different states have spent or have sanctioned INR 630379 crores on Hindu pilgrimages, renovation or beautification of temples or building roads giving these temples better access. Interestingly, Article 27 of the Constitution states that “No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination”. There is ambiguity as to what is meant by the terms ‘promotion’ and ‘maintenance’ as there are not many cases which shed light on this. Thus, it is not clear if the current spending falls under the ambit of this article. The state has been justifying this expenditure under the pretext of promotion of tourism. Even if that were the case, similar expenditure for promotion of heritage or places of worship related to Islam or Christianity is not observed from the reportage of media. There is selective promotion of symbols and heritage related to one particular religion.
It is also no coincidence that there were a series of campaigns and demands asking for investigations and digging of different mosques to check if there are idols of Hindu gods and goddesses like in the case of the Gyanvapi Mosque and others.
From the reports in media, it appears that the state of Uttar Pradesh was the largest spender on promotion of temples in 2022.
The Uttar Pradesh government in its budget in 2022 approved a budget of 797.68 crores to beautify the Ram temple area in Ayodhya along the lines of Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. The government in 2022 also earmarked INR 100 crores for preparations for the 2025 Maha Kumbh. The government is focussed on developing the other dhams — Rs 3.50 crore has been earmarked for the Vindhya Dham Teerth Vikas Parishad and Rs 3.50 crore for Chitrakoot Dham Pilgrimage Development (Financial Express, 2022).
The government provided Rs 500 crore to the Public Works Department for the construction of roads for a hassle-free darshan of the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga in Varanasi and the development of Surya Kund in Ayodhya. The Budget also provided Rs 77 crore to expand the approach road from the banks of Ganga to Kashi Vishwanath Dham. It provided another Rs 25 crore to set up the Sant Ravidas Museum and Cultural Centre in Varanasi. Another Rs 100 crore was set aside for the beautification of tourism facilities in Varanasi. An additional Rs 300 crore has been earmarked for an approach road to the Ram Janmabhumi site.
The works department was granted Rs 500 crore to develop a four-lane model road from Rajghat Bridge to Ramnagar, opposite the Ganga ghat. INR 50 lakh was approved to develop an online integrated information system for temples (Financial Express, 2022).
In 2022, Kashi Yatra Scheme was introduced by the government of Karnataka for the financial benefit of Karnataka residents who wish to visit Varanasi temple. This pilgrimage is known as the Kashi Yatra. Under this scheme Rs. 5000 subsidy will be given each to 30,000 pilgrims which will cost seven crores.
In August, 2022, the Karnataka government released INR 290 crores for renovation and development of temples and religious places across the state, most of them falling in BJP ruled constituencies. Earlier in July, the state government sanctioned Rs 232 crore to renovate and develop 105 temples across the state (Gejji, 2022).
The government also released funds for the construction of ‘Yatri Nivas’ at Sabarimala in Kerala, at Pandharpur and Siddagiri in Maharashtra and at Mantralayam in Andhra Pradesh.
Odisha government approved budget in 2022 for redevelopment of shrines- Kantilo Nilamadhab (INR 100 crores) in Nayagarh district, Cuttuck Chandi (INR 70 crores) and Sarala (42 crores) at Jhankada in Jagatsinghpur (Times of India, 2022). The state also earmarked INR 1950 crores for transformation of Puri under Augmentation of Basic Amenities and Development of Heritage and Architecture (ABADHA) scheme. EKAMRA scheme that aims development of areas around Lingaraj temple SAMALEI scheme for development of Samaleswari temple at Sambalpur got allocation of INR 200 crores each(Bisoyi, 2022).
The Tamil Nadu government in 2022 approved of conservation, restoration and renovation works at 1,000 temples across the State at an estimated cost of Rs 500 crore besides establishing a mega icon display-cum-cultural centre at the Kapaleswarar temple. Additionally, free meals would be provided to about 10,000 devotees per day for 20 days to those undertaking pilgrimage to the Dhandayudhapani swamy temple, Palani, during ‘Thai Poosam’ and ‘Panguni Uthiram’ festival days.
State funds in Tamil Nadu are also being spent on protection of cows and pilgrimage. A new mega ‘goshala’ (cow shed) is sanctioned on 25 acres of land belonging to the Sundararaja Perumal temple at a cost of Rs 20 crore, to shelter the cattle donated to the temples.
Commencing in 2022, about 200 devotees will be taken on a spiritual tour from Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameswaram, to Sri Viswanathaswamy temple, Kasi, every year and this will cost the government an expenditure of Rs 50 lakh (abp live, 2022).
The State government planned to take up construction of 1036 temples across the state in 2022. The estimate of construction of each temple is INR 8 lakhs and construction of idols is INR 2 lakhs (Samdani , 2022).
The Yadagirigutta temple, situated on outskirts of Hyderabad city will makeover as grand as the Tirupati Tirumala Temple in Andhra Pradesh and INR 1800 crores is earmarked for the same.
West Bengal government extended grant of Rs.60,000 (Rs.10,000 more than last year) to each of the 43,000 clubs across the State to organise Durga Puja in 2022. The government also increased the rebate for electricity tariff in the Durga Puja pandals to 60 per cent (from 50 per cent last year)(Chattopadhyay, 2022).
2. Hate speeches
In the past few years have, there has been a slew of hate speeches targeting the Muslim community. Some of these speeches exhort Hindus to take up arms against Muslims- openly inciting violence against them. These hate speeches are delivered by leaders of Hindu right-wing organizations and more importantly by elected representatives including Union Ministers, Chief ministers, state ministers, Members of Parliament (MP) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLA). They are bound by the Constitution to uphold the principles enshrined in the Constitution including secularism, equality, and liberty, yet seen targeting particular religious community.
Hysteria about Muslims being a threat to Hindus and calling to take up arms
The Hindu right wing and the ministers from the ruling party have been whipping up hysteria against Muslims over different issues- interfaith marriages/ relationships, population growth of Muslims, etc. It is worrisome that open call for violence against Muslims is given publicly in no uncertain terms and such aggression is normalized. Such calls for violence serve as a cue for Hindu vigilantes to indulge in violence against Muslims. Let’s have a look at some of such speeches below.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Sakshi Maharaj asked Hindus to keep bows and arrows at their home, saying police will not come to their rescue when a crowd arrives to carry out “jihad”. He is exhorting Hindus to take laws in their own hands and resort to violence. He also posted a picture of a crowd wearing skull caps and holding sticks on his Facebook page with the comment. “If this crowd suddenly comes to your street or house, then do you have any way to save yourself? If not then make some arrangement. Police will not come to your rescue, they will hide somewhere to save themselves,” he said in his Facebook post. “Police will come only when these people return after carrying out jihad. The matter will go to an inquiry committee and it will end there after sometime. For such guests, keep a couple of boxes of cold drink and some original bows and arrows in every house. Jai Shri Ram,” he added (Indian Express, 2022).
Yati Narsinghanand, infamous for this speech in 2021 calling for raging war against Muslims continued to spew poison and hatred in 2022 too and called for violence against Muslims. According to videos circulating on social media, Yati Narsinghanand was heard saying that if the country were to get a Muslim prime minister, “50 percent of you (Hindus) will change your faith in the next 20 years and 40 percent “would be killed”. He was talking at the event organized by Preet Singh, president, of the Save India Foundation in Delhi’s Burari Ground on 3 April 2022. The Delhi Police has filed three FIRs in connection with the event, saying they had denied permission for the event but the organizers still went ahead with the “Mahapanchayat Sabha” and around 700-800 people were present at the venue (Times of India, 2022).
In another hate speech, Yati Narsinghanand targeting Gandhi said, “Mahatma Gandhi gave rights to Indian Muslims and because of him, the 100 crore Hindu community does not have an inch of land of their own”. He was booked by the Ghaziabad Police after the video of the speech went viral (Indian Express, 2022).
In viral videos of the event of Hindu Yuva Vahini in Delhi, Suresh Chavhanke far-right Hindu activist, all saffron-clad, and asked the audience to “take an oath” to “make the country a Hindu Rashtra” even if that means “assaulting someone”. Chavhanke can be seen raising slogans such as “Hum sab shapat lete hai … vachan lete hai, apne antim pran …is desh ko Hindu rashtra banana ke lie, banaye rakhne ke lie, aage badhane ke lie ladenge, maarenge, zaroorat padhi to maarenge”. The crowd repeats the same in unison. Chavhanke himself posted the video on Twitter of him taking an oath at the event (Rajagopal, 2022).
However, the response of the Delhi police was more shocking and concerning. Delhi Police have told the Supreme Court that there were no instances of hate speech at a Hindu Yuva Vahini event nor was there, as alleged, any “open call for genocide of Muslims in order to achieve ethnic cleansing.” The words spoken were, instead, about “empowering one’s religion to prepare itself to face the evils which could endanger its existence, which is not even remotely connected to a call for genocide of any particular religion“. The police said the fundamental freedom of speech could not be suppressed unless it created a situation that was “pressing” or if it endangered community interests. Referring to the speech of Suresh Chavhanke at the Hindu Yuva Vahini event in Delhi’s Govindpuri, the police said it did not “disclose any such aim to incite caste, language and communal fanaticism as alleged or otherwise, nor has it resulted in any action in furtherance of any such incitement“.
In another incident, Gurugram Police in Haryana registered a first information report after members of Hindutva bodies chanted hateful slogans about Muslims at a rally held on June 29 to protest the killing of a tailor in Udaipur. Organisers of the rally attended by members of the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Vishwa Parishad have been booked in the case. The protestors are seen chanting slogans in Hindi, saying “Shoot the traitors”, and “Muslims will chant the name of [Hindu deity] Ram, when they are hacked to death”. The Hindutva group members also shouted derogatory slogans about Prophet Muhammad (Scroll.in, 2022).
Raping Muslim women
FIR was filed against seer Mahant Bajrang Muni in connection with a viral video clip in which he made provocative comments and issued a “rape threat” to Muslim women. In a viral video, he is been heard saying “If you tease a single [Hindu] girl, I will abduct your daughters and daughters-in-law from your house, and rape them in public.” He spoke into a microphone connected to a loudspeaker from a vehicle, parked outside a mosque in Sitapur on April 2. FIR had been lodged on the charges of sexual harassment through words, gestures, or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman, uttering words with deliberate intent to hurt the religious feeling of the person (Chakraborty, 2022).
Propaganda against Interfaith Marriages
Despite having no official data to prove the allegations of “love Jihad”- conspiracy by Muslim men to ‘lure’ Hindu women into relationships and marriages to convert them, the Hindu right wing is creating fears against Muslim using Hindu women. They urge the Hindu community to take up arms to “protect” Hindu women and the community.
On Dec 25, 2022, speaking at the Hindu Jagarana Vedike’s southern region annual convention, BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur told the gathering to give a befitting reply to anyone who “infiltrates our house”. “Keep weapons in your homes. If nothing else, at least keep the knives used to cut vegetables sharp… Don’t know what situation will arise when… Everyone has the right to self-protection. If someone infiltrates our house and attacks us, giving a befitting reply is our right,” she said.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said marrying adivasis for land is ‘love jihad’ after he announced the formation of a committee to implement Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state. “Several people marry tribal women to purchase land in their names. This is not love. It is love jihad,” CM Chouhan said at an event to observe the martyrdom of Tantya Mama Bhil in Indore on December 1 (Singh, 2022).
Rohingyas and hatred towards them
Rohingyas are viewed by the Hindu right as Muslims who have intentions to encroach on land in India and are portrayed a threat to the society. Union minister Amit Shah said that BJP will wipe the Rohingyas out of the state. While addressing the public meeting, Shah said “Harish Rawat has said that he would construct the Muslim University in Uttarakhand. Is any religious activity done at the university? Congress has started the politics of appeasement. Rohingya Muslims have begun to be seen in the mountains of Uttarakhand. It is being done under their leadership. I have come to promise you that to make Dhami your chief minister; the BJP government will swipe the Rohingya out of the state. On one side PM Modi does the work of developing char Dham in the state, on the other hand, the congress workers go to the collectors and give Rohingya ration cards and an ID card, Shah added (Aninews.in, 2022).
Addressing a rally in Valsad Tuesday, Rawal, a former MP from Ahmedabad East, said jobs and gas cylinder prices were not the real issues: “Gas cylinders are expensive, but their price will come down. People will get employment too. What will you do if Rohingya migrants and Bangladeshis start living around you?… Cook fish for the Bengalis?” Following an uproar, and an FIR, Rawal said his remark was targeted purely at illegal immigrants, and offered an apology (Indian Express, 2022).
Muslims as encroachers
The relatively newer narrative manufactured by the Hindu right wing is that Muslims have occupied places illegally and have encroached upon them. This narrative is used as a justification to raze down the properties owned by Muslims without due process. In fact the Chief Ministers sanctioning such unconstitutional actions are glorified and compared to Hindu Gods. This action is intended to marginalize the Muslim community further and hit them economically.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed “fake mazars” were removed from Bet Dwarka — an island near Gujarat’s Okha which is believed to be the residence of Lord Krishna. He claimed the BJP government will continue the “clean-up” despite opposition from the Congress party. “Our Bhupendrabhai (Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel) and Harshbhai (Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi) demolished the fake mazars in Bet Dwarka. They were all encroachments in the name of mazars and they were cleared but Congress said we were polarising,” said Shah while addressing an election gathering in the Khambhat assembly constituency in Gujarat. “Be it mazar or graves, shouldn’t encroachments be removed? The Congress does not like this. But don’t worry, even if they don’t like it, BJP will continue the clean-up. There is no need to be afraid of anyone,” he said in an Assembly constituency where Muslims form a sizeable part of the population. Shah’s comments came ahead of the Gujarat polls (Nair, 2022).
Narottam Mishra, Minister in MP state cabinet said, “Jisghar se pathar aye hain, us ghar ko pattharon ka hi dher banayenge”. This was the response of the MP government when communal violence broke out during Ram Navami processions organized by Hindu right wing organizations. Following this statement, the houses of Muslims were demolished in Khargone without any due process (Pal, 2022).
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the Muslims, as the ‘majority’ community in the State, have the responsibility of ensuring that the Assamese do not end up like Kashmiri Pandits. Responding to a debate in the State Assembly, he alluded to the recently-released Hindi film, ‘The Kashmir Files’ to argue, “today, Muslims are leaders in the opposition, have equal opportunity, and wield power. So, it is their duty to ensure that the lands of the tribal people are not encroached upon” (The Hindu, 2022).
Justifying the use of bulldozers to arbitrarily razing down properties of Muslims and likening them to mafia, Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Unnao Sakshi Maharaj said just like the cosmic weapons “Dhanush” and “Sudarshan chakra” were associated with Lord Ram and Lord Krishna respectively, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has a bulldozer that razes the illegal properties of the mafia. Every citizen in Uttar Pradesh was happy with the use of bulldozers to demolish the illegal properties that were built by encroaching on government land, claimed Sakshi Maharaj (Hindustan Times , 2022).
Muslims rightfully belong to Pakistan narrative
This is an old trope used by the Hindu right wing to create suspicion and hatred against Muslims in India. The oft repeated narrative is that Muslims rightfully belong to Pakistan and Muslims and Hindus can’t peacefully coexist in on country.
Union minister Giriraj Singh lashed out at critics of Ram Navami rallies asking “Where will Ram Navmi processions be taken out if not in this country? In Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other countries?“. He accused such critics of having the same thought process as the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinha. Slamming AIMM chief Asaduddin Owaisi for suggesting, after the Delhi violence, that Hindus should avoid Muslim-dominated areas, Singh said never have stones been pelted on a Tazia procession in the country. “In 1947, there was religious partition. After that, (Asaduddin) Owaisi-type people say why go to this lane and that lane. Have they divided it all into Hindu lanes and Muslim lanes? If they want to use this mentality to create divides, then they should listen carefully. Whoever had to go to Pakistan went there. In our country, there is no bar on our religious practices, our rituals. (Kumar & Ghosh, 2022)”
BJP MP from west Delhi, Parvesh Verma, called for the “total boycott” of people from a particular community during the ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ event organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other right-wing organisations in Delhi. He alleged that people from a particular community are trying to turn Delhi into a “mini Pakistan”. Mr. Verma said, “They are selling things in makeshift stalls. You don’t have to buy vegetables from their stalls. They sell non-veg[etarian food]. We should ask MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) and get all the shops, whose owners don’t have licence, shut. Boycott their restaurants.”, Verma could be heard saying, “Wherever you find them, there is only one way to straighten them — total boycott. Do you agree with me?” He asked the audience to raise their hands if they agreed. “We will not buy anything from their shops or pay them any wages. This is the only treatment for them,” he said. “Hum log kisi ko chedte nahi, lekin humari behen-beti ko chede toh usse hum chodte bhi nahin… Delhi ke andar CAA pe danga hua. Tab ye jihadi Hinduon ko maarna shuru kiye. Toh aap log the… apne ghar mei ghusa diya. Humare upar aarop lagadiya ki hum 2.5 lakh log Delhi mein leke ghuse. Hum to samjhane ke liye gaye the, lekin hum par police ne mukadma darj kar diya ki humne jihadiyo ko maarne ka kaam kiya. Hum jihadiyo ko maarenge. Hamesha maarenge. (Times of India, 2022)”
Mughal Kings opposed to Hindus/ extremists narrative
One of the most important ways used to perpetrate symbolic violence in India is to obliterate Muslim heritage and contribution of Muslims to the rich history of India. The period of history where the Mughal kings ruled India is painted as “dark ages” by the Hindu right though this period saw significant growth in art, culture, food, architecture etc. Somehow through persistent propaganda, the Mughal kings and the period they ruled have come to signify a threat to Hindus, religious intolerance and violence.
PM Narendra Modi praised Sri Guru Teg Bahadur for serving as a shield that protected India’s faith and culture from the ‘brutal assault’ launched on it by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. PM also defended the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), calling it a necessary measure to provide relief and security to the Sikhs and Hindus facing religious persecution in neighboring countries. Modi referred to Sri Guru Teg Bahadur ji as a beacon of hope at a time when India faced the “storm of religious extremism” at the hands of Aurangzeb (Times of India, 2022).
Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, in a video reportedly stated that BJP is fighting the Mughals. Shah in the video was referring to his earlier meeting with the members of the Jat community said, “I said our bond goes back 650 years. After the meeting, a few asked me to explain the remark, pointing out that BJP is not even 50 years old. I said that you fought the Mughals, we are also fighting.”(Times of India , 2022)
UP CM Adityanath while referring to the issue of Hijab, likened Muslims to “Talibanis”. He said, “those dreaming about Ghazva-e-Hind (Islamic conquest of India) that the nation would be run by the statute and not by the sharia. Those with the Talibani mindset should give up their dream. India will be run by the constitution. And every situation has the right to formulate his own dress code”(Siddiqui, 2022).
Spreading Stereotypes and fear about Muslims
There are myths and stereotypes promoted by the Hindu right to spread hatred against Muslims. Some of the stereotypes are that they all study in Madraasas which are ‘dens of terrorism’, they are rioters, criminals and mafia, they are fundamentalist and wage Jihad etc. These narratives are used to further humiliate the community and justify discrimination against them.
Adityanath, CM of Uttar Pradesh accused Samajwadi Party of giving tickets to rioters of 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots. But he took a dig at SP for allegedly favouring Muslims who he likened to criminals and pronounced how his government has used bulldozers against them. “The only development I could see during the SP rule was the extension of the boundary wall of kabristan [burial ground]. Criminal spots like Sotiganj were their bastion. Today, our bulldozer has cleared such spots.” (Kumar, 2022)
Madrassa, the word itself, should cease to exist. Till this madrassa will be in mind, children can never become a doctor or an engineer. If you ask a child while admitting him to a madrassa…no children would agree. Children are admitted to madrassa by violating their human rights,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. This statement comes at a time when there is a crackdown on Madrassas in Assam. The state government has de-recognized the Madrassas in the state (NDTV, 2022).
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister V Muraleedharan in his speech said Islamic terrorism has caused much loss to Christian churches across the world as he gave the examples of Iraq, Syria, and Sri Lanka. “Much Christian blood has flowed into Iraq, Syria, and even in India’s neighboring country Sri Lanka. Christians were massacred in Sri Lanka on Easter day in 2018 by Islamic extremists at a time when Pope Francis exhorts to love everyone,” said the Minister of State. He was arrested on 1 May 2022 (Philip, 2022).
BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma made remarks against Prophet Mohammed during a news debate, drawing strong criticism from various quarters. Naveen Kumar Jindal a former media head of the BJP, was summoned by the Bhiwandi city police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments by making derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammad on June 1. He tweeted “Nabi ke dularon ko puchhana chata hu ki, tumhara nabi 53 varsh ki ayu me 6 varsh ki chhoti bachhi Ayesha ke sath Shadi karta he fir 56 varsh ki ayu me 9 varshon ki bachchi ke sath sambandh rakhta he, Kya vah sambandh balatkar ki shreni me nahi ata? (Indian Express, 2022)”
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief and Assam MP Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said, “Muslim boys and girls marry at 22 and 18. Hindu men do not let babies be born till the age of 40 to save money but enjoy with one to three illegal wives,” Mr. Ajmal told a news channel in southern Assam’s Karimganj. “They [Hindu men] marry after 40 if forced by their parents or for some other reasons. Such an age is not ideal for having babies. You get a good harvest only if you plough a fertile land on time.” He later issued a public apology after outrage (The Hindu, 2022).
On April 29, addressing the Ananthapuri Hindu Mahasammelan in Thiruvananthapuram, P C George, a former legislator of regional Christian party Kerala Congress (M), alleged that restaurants run by Muslims should be avoided because they use “some kind of drops” that cause impotence. He also talked of “love jihad” and an “agenda to establish a Muslim country” by “sterilising men and women [of other faith] (Indian Express, 2022)”.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international working president Alok Kumar during the ‘Samvidhan Sankalp Yatra’ in New Delhi said, “This country will not run on principles Sharia, but based on the Constitution. Some anti-national, Jihadi forces are trying to disturb the peace and communal harmony of this country. But let me tell them, they won’t succeed. I want to tell all individuals and organizations with Islamic mindset and some countries that India will run on the basis of the Constitution and not the Sharia,” said Mr. Kumar (Mishra, 2022)
Allegations of Religious Conversions
Housing and Urban Affairs Minister of State Kaushal Kishore referring to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities and the problem of housing said, “there is a need to identify the areas where such people get left behind because they are not getting this help and due to their economically weaker condition, some people are misleading them and converting their religion”(The Hindu, 2022).
3. Social and Economic Boycotts against Muslims
The year 2022 is highlighted in particular with the strengthening of the trend of socially and economically boycotting the Muslims and Christians in different parts of the country. While one way to inflict violence and which has been very prominent over the years has been physical and direct violence in terms of communal riots and mob lynching, it was common that deeply inter-woven economic interdependence acted as a balm, compelling the communities to interact and maintain cordial relations even after communal riots. But in the past few years the trend of social and economic boycott of Muslims and Christians have had two adverse repercussions- one is that it impoverishes, paralyses and completely marginalizes the vulnerable communities and secondly it wipes out the shrinking common space for interaction. Economic boycotts push out the community to a large extent out of the economic ecosystem, forcing them to look for alternative places or occupations. It will force towards religion based occupational segregation as well as spatial segregations since Muslims must then sell their products only in Muslim areas. It is to be noted that majority of Muslims are anyway located in the informal sector. Such boycotts hit them even harder. The most concerning aspect of these boycotts are that they are not always called or enforced by right wing organizations alone, but common residents of that town or village or even elected representatives or other institutions which are supposed to uphold fraternity and equality enforce such bans. This is an indication of the extent of polarization already prevalent in the society.
Some of the important instances of social and economic boycott will be discussed here.
In 2022, Karnataka emerged as one of the states where these boycotts were widely demanded. One such demand was to boycott Muslim farmers and sellers in the wholesale trade of mangoes in Karnataka. The right-wing groups claim that the Muslims are trying to ‘monopolize’ this trade(Chatterjee, 2022). Similarly, there was also a campaign by the right wing to boycott Muslim meat sellers and only buy non halal meat. Muslim vendors were also attacked in Shivamogga as described in the previous part of this report (Sagar, 2022). On 6 April 2022, the Bruhat Benguluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) issued a circular prohibiting animal slaughter and the sale of meat on Ram Navmi.
In Karnataka’s Shivamogga, the festival committee didn’t give tenders to Muslim shopkeepers to set up shops during the historic five-day Kote Marikamba Jatra festival after protests by the BJP and others. During the Kote Marikamba Jatre which began on March 22, leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishat (VHP) and Bajrang Dal succeeded in ensuring that Muslims did not put up shops. Every year, several Muslims would not only do small trade but also offer harake (fulfilment of a vow) to the deity. This year, Hindutva leaders allegedly threatened the person who had been awarded the tender to manage stalls, demanding that Muslims should not be allowed to set up stalls. Given the coercion, the person eventually gave up the tender and the festival organizing committee handed over the responsibility to the VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders (The Hindu, 2022). Similarly, organizers of the annual festival of the Mahalingeshwara Temple which was scheduled on April 20 barred Muslims from participating in the auction. In the invitation, the organizers made it clear that only Hindus are eligible to participate in the bid.
In Uttar Pradesh too, similar demands were made by Hindu right wing organizations. For instance, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (Kashi Prant) leaders wrote to the chief minister urging him to impose a ban on the sale of liquor, meat, eggs and fish within a 5km radius of Sangam in Prayagraj district. The UP government has already banned sale of liquor and meat in 10 square kilometer area around Krishna Janmabhoomi(Hindustan Times, 2022). In UP, so strong is the campaigning of the Hindu right wing groups and the intimidation by the state that some of the restaurant owners who have been running their restaurants for many years have changed the names of their restaurant or their menu or both. Mohammed Zameel who owns Royal Family Restaurant has replaced his Muslim staff with Hindus to hide his identity as ‘Kashi-Mathura Baaki Hai’ slogans are getting louder in Mathura. Apart from firing Muslim staff, he changed his hotel’s name from ‘Taj Hotel’ to ‘Royal Family Restaurant’. He was also forced to shift his menu to all vegetarian options after the state government banned the sale of meat and liquor in the city (Khan, 2022). In an example of politics of vendetta, Kanpur district administration sealed five eateries owned by Mukhtar after samples collected from these places were found to be ‘unfit for human consumption’ in July. Mukhtar also called “Baba Biryani”, runs a chain of restaurants. Mukhtar is accused rioting and violence in Kanpur on 3rd June and subsequently arrested on June 22. Violence broke out in Kanpur on June 3 over BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s controversial remarks on Prophet Mohammad during a TV debate (Times of India, 2022).
Banning of meat in certain places or forcing meat and liquor shops shut on religious festivals is one of the ways of hitting a community whose livelihood is dependent on it. In different parts of the country, demands of keeping meat shops shut are increasing. South Delhi Municipal Corporation mayor Mukesh Suryan directed keeping meat shops closed for nine days during Navratras. The mayor also wrote to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal requesting him to shut down all liquor shops for nine days and take action to stop people drinking outside these places during the festival (Sharma, 2022).
In a Mahapanchayat organized in a temple in Manesar, Gurugam, Bajrang Dal and other Hindu right-wing organizations called for boycott against Muslim shopkeepers and demanded that the administration carries out a drive to check their documentation. Village level committees were formed to ensure that the boycott was enforced. Subsequently sixty to seventy houses were emptied where the residents fled, fearing hostility (Kissu, 2022).
4. Renaming of places having Muslim influence in the names
Renaming places is one of the most powerful tools to erase non-Hindu influences in the public discourse. This is a strategy used since 2014 to “Hinduize” spaces and erase Muslim influence in spatial and visual landscape of India. For instance, In 2022, around a dozen municipal wards with Muslim names were renamed after Hindu leaders, seers and poets in Gorakhpur. According to the list, Mohaddipur, Mian Bazar, Alinagar, Muftipur, Turkmenpur, Ismailpur, Rasoolpur, Humayunpur North, Dawood Pur, Zafra Bazar, Ilahi Bagh, Quazipur Khurd and some other wards have been renamed. Some wards with Muslim names were renamed after freedom fighters Sardar Bhagat Singh and Ram Prasad Bismil, Lord Hanuman, Digvijay Nath, a formed Mahant of the Gorakhnath Temple. Dawood Pur ward has been renamed as Raghupati Sahai alias Firaq Gorakhpuri, the famous Urdu poet (Pandey, 2022).
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism