By Sardar Khan Niazi
Since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power in India, anti-Muslim rhetoric and discriminatory measures have been increasing. Islamophobia has reached an unprecedented level, with Muslims increasingly subject to hate speech, racist attacks, and violence.
Islamophobia in Modi’s India is the norm, and not a fringe occurrence. Pakistan has strongly condemned the recent Islamophobic remarks by K S Eshwarappa, a BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, and denounced the proposed plan of the Indian government for closing down over 600 religious seminaries in its country.
According to the Foreign Office, these remarks are another manifestation of the rising Islamophobia in the so-called biggest democracy of the world. Pakistan expressed deep concerns about the alarming rise in racism, faith-based crimes, and violence against Muslims in India.
Islamophobia has dangerously manifested in India today. India has become the epicenter of global Islamophobia. This is not just because of the frequency of attacks on Muslims, which is a daily occurrence now; the depth of immorality is visible in the demonizing language used against Muslims and in the level of violence perpetrated against them.
Beyond that, the gravity of Islamophobia in India is twofold: first, the unabashed institutional support for Islamophobia in the highest political offices in the country documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and second is no recourse for Indian Muslims to appeal to the judiciary, police or any other legal authorities for meaningful protection
India is home to some two hundred million Muslims, one of the world’s largest Muslim populations but a minority in the predominantly Hindu country. Since India’s independence, Muslims have faced systematic discrimination, prejudice, and violence, despite constitutional protections.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have heightened under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda since elected to power in 2014.
Since Modi’s reelection in 2019, the Indian government has pushed controversial policies that critics say explicitly ignore Muslims’ rights and aim at disenfranchising millions of Muslims. Under Modi, violence against Muslims has become more common. The moves have sparked protests in India and drawn international condemnation.
Islamophobia has always been a central feature of the ideology of Hindu nationalist factions in India. Established in 1925, the Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has led the charge of making India a Hindu land.
The founder and first chief of the RSS Keshav Baliram Hedgewar proclaimed that Hindu culture is the life breath of the country. Therefore, he added, that if India “is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture”. Here, the opposition to this vision especially among India’s Muslims was considered by RSS leaders to reflect Muslim arrogance and insolence”.
In 1929, Hegdeward’s successor Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar – who was also sympathetic to Nazi Germany, wrote that Muslim culture was incompatible with Indian culture because “Islam originated in a dry and sandy region”.
This Islamophobia was readily espoused and propagated in electoral politics by the RSS’s political wing the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951-1977) and the Janata Party (1977-1980), both predecessors of the BJP.
Their campaigns were fueled by the stereotype of an aggressive Islam on the rampage and the cause of building a Hindu nation. Equally, they condemned the idea of secularism and considered it a way of appeasing the country’s religious minorities, especially the Muslim population.
In fact, an RSS and Jana Sangh functionary also proposed the Indianization of the Muslim population as a way of purging them of disloyal tendencies. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the World Hindu Council has also been a prominent force in propagating Hindu nationalism at home and abroad. The international community must take notice of India’s ghastly plans.