Majority violence is slowly tearing India apart | Islamophobia

In India, the new year started with unjustified attacks on the country’s Muslims. On January 1, photos of more than 100 Muslim women appeared in App called Bulli Bai, claiming they were “sold as maids”. Prominent journalists, actresses and activists were all targeted.

The apparent attempt to sexualize, humiliate and force silence on politically active and socially prominent Muslim women has understandably angered India’s 200 million Muslim community. After a backlash, the app was taken down and several people were arrested over the incident.

But this is just the latest in a string of Islamophobic incidents in India.

For example, on the last day of 2021, a leading national daily newspaper ran An overt Islamophobic ad This is funded by the government of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.Just a few weeks ago, several far-right Hindu leaders went public call for genocide Against Muslims at a three-day religious summit in the northern Indian city of Haridwar.

Also in December, India’s far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in two public speeches, linked Muslim figures from India’s distant history to today’s “terrorism and religious extremism,” suggesting that India Muslims should be held accountable and punished. Crimes allegedly committed by their “ancestors”.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who belongs to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), declared that the state’s upcoming parliamentary elections could be described as “80% to 20%” ‘, without so subtly suggesting his views on the state’s election as a battle between the Hindus, who make up 80 percent of the state’s population, and the Muslim minority, 20 percent.

Anti-Muslim propaganda by India’s elected and unelected leaders in 2021 is also supported by the country’s brazen Islamophobic media and anti-Muslim laws and policies passed or proposed in many states.

Muslims in India have felt threatened since the Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014. But in the past year, hostility to the community has become more overt. Today, far-right Hindu nationalists, supported and encouraged by the government and local authorities, are making it clear to Muslims that they are no longer considered equal citizens in their own country. Their eating habits and religious rituals were attacked and even criminalized. Muslim women are humiliated and harassed simply because they are Muslim. Muslim livelihoods are at stake. Calls are being made for genocide of Muslims. It is no longer safe to be a Muslim in BJP India.

Christians also face increasing attacks

However, Muslims are not the only religious minority targeted by the country’s increasingly bold far right. Christians across India face similar hatred and violence. State after state has enacted laws against conversion, and Christians have been accused of forcibly converting poor Hindus and tribes. This is turning public opinion against the Christian community. Christian Sunday prayers were repeatedly interrupted, churches were attacked, and priests were beaten.

As veteran journalist John Dayal recently reported, “violent Hindu mobs attacked churches, praying Christian churches and groups celebrating Christmas” in at least 16 towns and cities last month. Such incidents have occurred in states across the country, from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in the north. to the southern state of Karnataka. India has recorded at least 460 attacks against Christians in the past year, according to the United Christian Forum.

Under the BJP’s leadership, India became one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Muslims and Christians. They are persecuted physically, psychologically and financially. Laws are being passed to criminalize their religious practices, eating habits and even businesses. In addition to discriminatory laws, they are often subjected to threats and physical violence. The media and the TV and film industries are biased against them. Perhaps most importantly, the country’s elected rulers continually dehumanize and even demonize them to advance their own political agendas.

For Muslims and Christians in India, 2021 is a year of fear, violence and harassment. And the Hindu far-right’s attacks on religious minorities are likely to continue in the new year, as the Buribai incident has shown.

But the struggle for India’s identity and soul is not over. The country’s resistance to violent majority politics is slowly growing, and many who believe in democracy and human rights are working tirelessly to save India’s national unity and secular identity.

the way forward

Muslims in India no longer accept attacks against them. Muslim women, for example, refused to be intimidated when they found themselves “sold” on so-called “auction apps” and filed a series of Initial Information Reports (FIRs) to force authorities to find and punish the men. responsible. When it became clear that Muslims would not let the issue go, security forces — which have all but ignored similar anti-Muslim crimes in the past — moved quickly to arrest four people believed to be behind the app.

Meanwhile, a new crop of Muslim journalists and activists is tirelessly documenting and documenting Islamophobic incidents and attacks across the country, and holding state institutions accountable. Thanks to their efforts, it has become increasingly difficult for state authorities to ignore or downplay the abuses Muslims face. These journalists and activists, supported by the wider Muslim community and many other democratic-minded Indians, are working to ensure that recent calls for genocide against Muslims in Haridwar do not go unpunished. Due to mounting public pressure, police have announced an investigation into the incident.

Some of India’s leading institutions are still upholding the country’s secular constitution and helping minorities resist the tide of majority oppression and violence. For example, the Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would urgently hear a petition to arrest and prosecute those who published hate speech and incited violence against Muslims in Haridwar. The court also recently ordered Tripura police not to take any criminal action against Muslims who speak or write about anti-Muslim violence in the state between October and November 2021.

India’s resistance to majority violence is growing because it has to. The BJP will remain in power until at least 2024, and its leaders are unlikely to abandon their anti-Muslim and anti-Christian rhetoric anytime soon. Religious minorities are speaking out because silence is no longer an option for them. They fought for their rightful place in their homeland—they fought for survival.

Efforts by India’s religious minorities and their allies to document and focus on anti-Muslim and anti-Christian attacks and threats, as well as the Supreme Court’s actions, will no doubt help slow the tide of majority violence in the country. But India cannot heal and is again a country where different religious groups live in harmony alone. The international community also needs to acknowledge and take a stand against routine harassment and threats of genocide against Muslims and Christians in the country.

If we look back at past atrocities, we can clearly see how the silence of the international community against the growing hatred and violence against persecuted communities has paved the way for genocide.

Today, many powerful and “democratic” states that claim to be defenders of human rights around the world do not condemn crimes against religious minorities in India because they see India as a key strategic ally against China or what they see as a major trading market. rather than anger.

But if the world’s democracies remain silent and allow India to continue on this path, the country will soon be plunged into civil war. An India at war with itself can neither buy other countries’ products nor help them contain Chinese influence. If intercommunal violence tears apart the world’s largest democracy, all countries in the region and beyond will suffer.

But this dire situation is not inevitable. For a long time in the past, different religious groups have coexisted peacefully in India and they can do it again. Muslims and Christians are resisting government-backed majority violence in India, and with the help of those around the world who want India to remain a secular democracy and make all citizens feel safe, they can still win this fight for the souls of their people. nation.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial position.