The anti-Muslim mobilisation drive is of late organically embedded at the grassroots level. This has acquired a momentum of its own and to the credit of the BJP hate managers; this anti-Muslim drive has relatively become free of government control.
Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India
Hindu-Muslim relations have reached a tipping point in India. This has happened under the BJP rule since 2014. A series of anti-Muslim events designed by the BJP suggests life for India’s largest minority may not be as cozy as it used to be.
The trail of events that started in 2014 with the cow vigilant, citizenship act, Tablighi Jamat’s Corona connect, Delhi riots, ‘Dharam Sansads’, Hijab, Halal, Azan, Gyanwapi Mosque and latest the blasphemous remarks, and the bulldozing of Muslim homes are all sordid tales pointing to the dipping Hindu-Muslim relationship in India.
How did this situation emerge?
This situation has emerged in the backdrop of three broad phases. First, demonetisation of the Indian currency on November 8, 2016, second, the BJP’s victory in the 2019 general elections and third, the BJP government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The demonetisation knocked the bottom out of the economy and its cascading effect was felt in every sphere of activity. The government of the day since then has engaged in the Hindu-Muslim polarisation politics to cover the wrongs. It also intimidated the media to play a role of subservience and rationalise all the government actions no matter how much flawed they may be.
Narendra Modi, after winning the 2019 general elections, demolished federalism and pulled down as many as nine elected state governments in the country. He devised a new relationship with Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating article 370 and robed its statehood by making two Union Territories. After that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), and extracting the Ram Mandir judgment from the Supreme Court, he embarked on his pet project of making India a Hindu Rastra. This, he did by invoking nationalist spirit among the Hindus by othering the Muslims.
In the third phase, the Prime Minister made a horrendous mess of the Covid-19 management. He put Parliament in the freezer and first took control of the situation and announced a total lockdown of the country. When it created an unprecedented economic crisis, he delegated his responsibilities to the state governments. During the lockdown, he froze the vaccines and this led to rising unemployment. He then brought in the farm laws and made amendments to the labour laws. The Chinese occupation of Indian territories was brushed aside by raising the nationalist ante of the Hindu Rashtra. He again played the anti-Muslim card to cover up his failures by raising the nationalist bogey of Hindi – Hindu – Hindustan.
Narendra Modi brought a few distinct features into Indian politics. First, he stopped paying heed to the constitutional guarantee of equal citizenship rights. He stopped paying heed to the idea of pluralism and secularism. He embarked upon majoritarian politics and evolved the 80 Vs 20 formula in politics. The politics of majoritarianism united the Hindus and ostracised the Muslims. By doing all this, he subverted democracy, the constitution, principles of pluralism, and rule of law. In this 80-20 political paradigm the BJP government was successful in making the Muslims the enemy of the nation. As a result, a plethora of anti-Muslim religious discrimination and persecution started and that continues unabated.
The majoritarian political ideology of hating Muslims was implemented through subversion of government agencies and allowing non-state actors to take on innocent Muslims. The majoritarian political ideology was also implemented through legitimate means; enacting citizenship laws and using the state power to suppress its protestors.
At the same time, the BJP leadership allowed rogue elements to run riot in the country and commit brutalities against Muslims on the streets. This has poisoned the very fabric of Indian society and shaken the foundations of multi-centralism in the country.
All this happened because Narendra Modi demonised Muslims as the safest enemy of Hindus and India. Muslims’ numerical minority, social, economic, and educationally backwardness made the community a happy hunting ground. The BJP government successfully pitted the 15% minority population against the 80% majority where the former had no chance to win. It’s precise because of the Muslim communities’ total vulnerability and helpless situation that makes them an attractive enemy.
Narendra Modi has made Muslims a vanquished lot who are at the mercy of the Hindu community. Muslims are reduced to punching bags whom all and sundry can flog as there is none to protect them. Perhaps, this is the reason why there is such an easy consent and consensus for the making of the Hindu Rashtra. The fulcrum of this is to blame the Muslims for all the wrongs in India and for that, they are made the national enemy deemed to be purged.
Anti-Muslim politics over the years
The first two decades after Independence can be termed as the glorious period of Hindu-Muslim relations in India. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership saw to it that the country is steered under the principles of secularism, democratic values, and constitutionalism.
However, under Indira Gandhi’s rule, principles gave way to electoral politics. She adopted a dual policy toward the Muslims; one she mobilised right-wing Hindus to engineer communal riots against the Muslims. Her reign is littered with anti-Muslim communal riots in the country. On the other, she cajoled Muslims with certain sops and acted as their messiah. In reality, Indra Gandhi reduced Muslims to a Congress vote bank. She pretended to be their security provider, but in reality butchered them through communal riots. Even then, Muslims rallied behind Congress as it alone can be their protector against the rabid anti-Muslim communal BJP.
Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi was a political novice. He was sucked into the vortex of vote bank politics being hatched on the communal polarization of Hindus and Muslims. He appeased the Hindu community by opening the gates of Babari Masjid and allowing the ‘Shilanayas’ ceremony to be performed for constructing the Ram Mandir. This further pushed the anti-Muslim agenda of the Congress party.
Rajiv Gandhi’s successor Narshima Rao presided over the demolition of the Babari mosque and with that, he eroded the myth of Muslims being equal citizens of the country.
It was on the anti-Muslim platform built by L K Advani that the BJP gained power and Atal Behari Vajpayee became the PM. Since Vajpayee headed a coalition government, he could not push the anti-Muslim agenda of the Hindu Rastra dream though he made some nasty comments against Muslims in Goa in 2002. Manmohan Singh, who succeeded Vajpayee, tried to hold the communal balance at the center and did not allow the Hindu zealots to harm the Muslims.
Hindu-Muslim relations under Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi, after coming to power at the Centre in 2014, has changed the entire social structure of the Hindu-Muslim relationship that was based on peaceful coexistence. His anti-Muslim divisive agenda in the pursuit of Hindu Rashtra turned the Hindu-Muslim relationship into a game of 80 Vs 20 that was being played on a daily basis. With each passing day, the Hindu-Muslim equation is deteriorating to the point of no return. Under Modi’s rule, the anti-Muslim mobilisation drive is now organically embedded at the grassroots level. This has acquired a momentum of its own and to the credit of the BJP hate managers; this anti-Muslim drive has relatively become free of government control. This was seen at the outbreak of communal riots in multiple states during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti celebrations in 2022.
It goes to the credit of the Modi government that the world is talking today about the genocide of the Muslims in India. Under Modi’s rule, the anti-Muslim vigilantes have become autonomous centers of power. The Modi rule has given the radicalised Hindu gangs a free hand to masquerade as nationalists and patriots who have the licence to kill the Muslims.
The credit also goes to the BJP government for making the Opposition political parties, bureaucracy, media, civil society and even judiciary impotent, and they neither have the will nor do they have the inclination to protect Muslims.
In such a situation what the Muslims should do to salvage the tipping Hindu-Muslim relations. The choice before them is to concede defeat and stop fighting for secular and plural values and redefine their relationship in the context of ‘Hindu Rashrata’ that’s just on cards. The other option is to resist BJP’s designs and bear the brunt of being demonised. It is certain that the BJP cannot push its anti-Muslim agenda beyond a certain point. The BJP knows that they will be pushing India into large-scale violence and societal chaos that may have a repelling effect on the peace-loving Hindus.
The anti-Muslim fire that’s lit by the BJP has spilled over to the unemployed youth who are annoyed by the Agnipath scheme of the government. Their collective anger that had once had ‘Jai Sri Ram’ as the war cry is now changed to ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’ This suggests how things are going out of the control of the BJP.
Narander Modi has reduced India into a ship on fire in the mid-ocean with ammunition on board where the Hindu-Muslim relationship is at the tipping point.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com