THERE is little doubt that India’s minorities — particularly its Muslims — have had a tough time under Narendra Modi’s watch. The right-wing leader has seemingly given carte blanche to Hindutva zealots to make the lives of India’s Muslim citizens miserable. The state has played a key role in passing discriminatory laws, while it has failed to act when the goons of the Sangh Parivar hounded and killed Muslims.

Recently, the perils Muslim women face in Prime Minister Modi’s India were highlighted when a fake online ‘auction’ claimed to ‘sell’ these women by posting their pictures online, while using a derogatory term for them. Charges have been filed, but the perpetrators of this despicable act have yet to be traced, and are widely believed to be Hindutva trolls. Among the victims are pilots, journalists and researchers, solely targeted for being Muslim women.

Of course, women in general face much abuse online globally. In this case, misogyny and Islamophobia have come together in a toxic mix, making cyberspace a more dangerous place for women. As one targeted journalist commented, “Muslim men are lynched, Muslim women are harassed and sold online. When will this end?”

Read: Indian Muslim women and the fear factor

The Indian government — if it still claims to adhere to secularism — must take to task those behind this sick stunt. The threat of online abuse translating into real-world harassment and violence cannot be ignored, hence action must be taken. More generally, online platforms must do more to make sure they are not being used to spread hateful, misogynistic and anti-Muslim content.

However, it is a sad fact that in India, cabinet members as well as chief ministers have issued deplorable anti-Muslim statements, and have not even received a slap on the wrist from Mr Modi for their hateful rhetoric. When such behaviour emanates from the top, naturally the ideological foot soldiers of the Sangh will take it as their cue to declare open season on India’s Muslims. We can only reiterate the words of the journalist quoted above: when will it end?

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2021

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