If Indians thought it was only the Muslims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was targeting they should take notice of the latest attacks on Christians in their country, as evidenced from a report published on June 13 in the South Asia Journal: “The federal government and judiciary must act immediately to check the worrying trend of targeting Christians.
“An inter-denominational rights group in India’s national capital has demanded the federal government and judiciary intervene immediately to check the rapid rise in incidents of violence, coercion and false arrests of Christians. The New Delhi-based United Christian Forum has cited 207 cases of persecution in 2022 to back the demand; it documented 505 in 2021. This data flies in the face of statements by government functionaries and leaders of the ruling party at the center and in the states that there is no persecution and that there are only a few stray incidents by fringe elements.”
A Christian leader said it was ironic that the culprits, many of whom even film the acts of vandalism and physical violence on unarmed women and men, dare to defy the law with such impunity while the pastors and faithful gathered for prayers are arrested on false charges of religious conversion. In all such cases, the police are either mute spectators or active participants. Despite appeals to senior officials and administrators, he said, police had failed to follow protocol, rules and conduct investigations.
Muslims bear the brunt
But what the Modi government does to Muslims is more worrying and insidious. Indian intellectual-politician Shashi Tharoor, in a book of essays India Shastra: Reflections on the Nature of our Time (2014), spells out the worldview of the Muslim-baiting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the following words: “Intangible factors have also contributed to the sense of communal polarization across our country. The election campaign afforded the first egregious instances of such rhetorical transgressions. Bihar BJP M.P. Giriraj Singh declared that ‘those who want to stop’ BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would soon have ‘no place in India … because their place will be in Pakistan.’ Amit Shah, the current president of the BJP, reportedly claimed in a speech that the election was a chance to seek ‘revenge’ for the ‘insult’ inflicted on the Hindu community during the riots in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, in which nearly 60 were killed, hundreds raped and thousands displaced. (Most of the victims were Muslim.) Shah also condoned the violence: ‘Nobody wants riots. But when there is one-sided action, people are forced to come out on the streets.’”
Electoral victory has emboldened Hindutva voices across India. The Goa State Cooperation Minister told his state assembly that “if we all support it and we stand by Narendra Modi systematically, then a Hindu Rashtra will be established.” Goa’s Catholic deputy chief minister, Francis D’Souza, rushed to support him, declaring, in a perverse fulfilment of Savarkar’s and Golwalkar’s views, that he considered himself a Christian Hindu. “India is already a Hindu nation” and “all Indians in Hindustan are Hindus,” he added.
No Muslims in Lok Sabha
For the first time in the history of India, the ruling party has no Muslim representation in the Lok Sabha. Indeed, the state that has historically sent Muslims to Parliament after every single general election, Uttar Pradesh, failed to do so in 2014, when the BJP and its allies swept 75 out of 80 seats there. There is no starker evidence of polarization imaginable.
Prime Minister Modi has been either ambivalent or utterly silent on all these incidents. He has missed several opportunities to reach out and reassure the Muslim community. Indeed, the prime minister’s statements on the communal issue have not been reassuring. Before the 2013 election, he had notoriously compared Muslim victims of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom to dogs, telling an interviewer in July: “If one is driving a car or someone else is driving a car and you’re sitting behind, and a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be accidental or not?”
Muslims as ‘foreign element’
But even after becoming prime minister, Modi’s language has betrayed a Hindu nationalist mindset: “1,200 saal ki ghulami ki mansikta hindustaniyon ko pareshan karti rahi hai” (Colonial slavery of 1,200 years has weakened/troubled Indians), he said in June 2014. The reference is not to British colonialism, which lasted less than 200 years; it is to the advent of Muslim rule 1,200 years ago. If “Muslims” are a foreign element that enslaved “Indians,” isn’t it time the tables were turned on them? In a video conference addressing non-resident Indians in the U.S., Modi said: “My definition of secularism is simple: India First. Whatever you do, wherever you work, India should be the top priority for all its citizens. The country above all religions and ideologies.” That’s unexceptionable: but do any of the examples conform to a vision? In an interview to ABP News, he was asked specifically whether his desire to reach out to every Indian citizen would include Muslims. Modi replied: “I will never go by this terminology of yours. Even if you drag me I will not.”
Tharoor wrote: “Modi must know that there is a great deal of concern throughout the country, and particularly among our Muslim fellow-citizens, about whether the Bharatiya Janata Party and its fellow-travelers have the desire or the willingness to work for all of India’s communities, or whether they seek to profit from dividing the nation on sectarian lines. A few words of reassurance from the master orator could have gone a long way towards calming our disquiet. Instead, the prime minister has chosen to stay silent. He has not even made the simple gesture of attending an iftar during Ramadan, let alone hosting one as his predecessors did.”
Hindus are Ramzaday; Muslims are Haramzaday
Activist Shamsul Islam, writing In South Asia Journal on May 7, noted: “One has lost count of religious conclaves of Hindu ‘saints’, friendly to RSS, calling for violent cleansing of lawful Indian Muslims. It was not long ago that a senior RSS luminary who also graced the high constitutional office of Governor of Tripura, Tathagata Roy, reminded through a tweet that ‘the Hindu-Muslim problem won’t be solved without a Civil War.’ Roy claimed that he was only reminding Hindus of an unfinished task wished by Syama Prasad Mookerji, an icon for RSS cadres ruling India today. In fact, it has been the most favorite theme of RSS since its inception in 1925. India is for Ramzaday (children of Ram) and out of bound for Babarzaday (children of Babar) who are also described as Haramzaday (the illegitimate children).
“The RSS and its Hindutva appendages have been demanding revenge for crimes against Hindus in history but have singled out the medieval period only in order to focus on the persecution by ‘Muslim’ rulers. It is really surprising that in a country like India whose civilization is more than 5,000 years old, a period of 400-500 years (‘Muslim’ Rule) only is put under the scanner. In order to arrive at truth we need to inquire into about the nature of ‘Muslim’ rule. The most crucial issue is: Why have the common Muslims of today’s India to pay for the sins of the ‘Muslim’ rulers who had friendly and cordial relations (including matrimonial) with the high Caste hierarchy of the Hindu society?”
Mughals from Hindu mothers
It should be interesting to investigate whether ‘Hindu’ history was devoid of religious, social and political persecution. The Hindutva zealots demanding Muslim-free India must know that all ‘Muslim’ rules survived due to the Hindu high castes joining the “Muslim” rulers in running their empires. How solid this unity was can be gauged by the fact that after Akbar no Mughal emperor was born of a Muslim mother. Moreover, Hindu high castes provided brain and muscles to the ‘Muslim’ rulers faithfully. Likewise, Mughal rule established by Babar who was invited by a section of Hindu kings to seize India was the rule of Hindu high Castes also. Aurobindo Ghose, who played prominent role in providing Hindu foundation to the Indian nationalism confessed that Mughal rule continued for over a century due to the fact that Mughal rulers gave Hindus, “positions of power and responsibility, used their brain and arm to preserve” their kingdom.
Renowned historian Tara Chand, relying on the primary source material of the medieval period, concluded that from the end of 16th century to the middle of 19th century, “it may reasonably be concluded that in the whole of India, excepting the western Punjab, superior rights in land had come to vest in the hands of Hindus” most of whom happened to be Rajputs. Maasir al-Umara a biographical dictionary of the officers in the Mughal Empire beginning from 1556 to 1780 [Akbar to Shah Alam] is regarded as the most authentic record of the high rank officials employed by the Mughal kings.