When the State Falls, Citizens Bound to Rise to the Occasion


India is witnessing a new revolution. Whether it is Afreen or Zubair, Teesta or Sanjiv, the camaraderie is stunning.

DR SAMINA SALIM | Clarion India

WHEN I was growing up in India, the political scenario was restrictive in terms of participation of women in general and Muslim women in particular. Social media has revolutionised the level of participation to the extent that anyone who is old enough to open a social media account hzas no hesitation to let out his/her emotions, register dissent or express opinions about any issue under the sun.

This in turn has energised everyone across the Indian spectrum, specifically the youth and women in a remarkable manner. They are experiencing a new-found power to organise and lead. An example of this energetic participation was visible in the heart of New Delhi when Muslim women organised, led, and successfully ran a 101-day long protest against the infamous Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). An emulation of this movement was the farmers’ sit-in protest.

Undoubtedly, Shaheen Bagh and farmers’ protest will forever remain in Indian history as a hallmark of Gandhian legacy. Although the Hindutva machinery with their trolls collaboratively plotted to label Shaheen Bagh women and protesting farmers as “anti-national”, their malicious campaign, however, could not withstand the commitment of Shaheen Bagh or determination of the farmers.
Despite the success of these two historical movements, the Hindutva forces have not given up. They rather kept pushing the country’s minorities to the edge in the hope of creating a theocratic state. Now that they could be able to form an anti-Muslim tempest through a relentless propaganda, they are looking to slowly push the 200-million strong Muslim population to the extent that they are left with no option but to fight back so that they could instigate the majority against them.

The anti-Muslim hysteria backed by state machinery, funded by corporate money, and sustained by Radio Rwanda-style media together created an ideal scenario to implement their agenda. The synergy is demonic. Dehumanisation, criminalisation, and alienation of Muslims have become mainstream. Muslim men are lynched in broad daylight or thrashed and arrested on mere suspicion and rumour.

Muslim women face online auctions and punitive legislation which prevents them from practicing their faith as they strive to uphold their right to education. Women who protest are pulled by their head scarves, baton-charged, and molested or shoved into police custody, not to mention the daily online hate and trolls they endure. Muslim journalists face arrest and harassment on a daily basis.
By contrast, Hindutva rallies amidst sword wielding, chorus of genocidal slogans and calls to rape Muslim women have become a common place. The level of outrageousness has reached bizarre limits. There seems to be a competition; whoever delivers the most outlandish anti-Muslim bigotry qualifies for the highest cadre in the Hindutva esteem and adorns the winning crown for a day, only to be passed on to the next greater bigot the following day.  

Illiterate or semi-literate, often self-proclaimed saffron-clad holy men who thrive on daily doses of WhatsApp rubbish of unfounded history amplify the anti-Muslim paranoia to their followers with unlimited forwards on group chats. This has become so rampant that very soon hearsay and untruth will replace the disciplines of history and anthropology.

There is little room left for discourse, dialogue, or opposition. Dissent is muzzled, protesters jailed, beaten up, their homes and livelihood bulldozed to rubble. After all who is watching, law and order is non-existent, judiciary is a joke, civil society has been rear-ended with fear and intimidation. India already has crossed the threshold of restraint and has reached a state where its democracy is a namesake. The skeleton of a democracy precariously dangles in the air. Sadly, the systematic decimation of Muslim identity is on full display. Considering such grim circumstances, the fears of genocide do not sound unfounded.

Whether the crackdown by the state on Indian civil society will persist or the secular character will prevail, remains to be seen. History is a great reminder. Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment of 23 long years did not break his struggle, what broke down was the apartheid state. Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement did not exhaust his spirit, instead energised the struggle and brought down the mighty British. India is witnessing a new revolution. Whether it is Afreen or Zubair, Teesta or Sanjiv, the camaraderie is stunning. When the blaze is at the doorstep, one has no option but to put it out, no fear for bruises or burns when the very survival is at stake.

This is an excerpt from a roundtable delivered by the author at the International Religious Freedom Summit, Washington, DC, June 30, 2022.

Samina Salim, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Houston College of Pharmacy. The views expressed here are author’s own and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

India Gate in New Delhi. Photo used for illustrative purposes only.
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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