EVIDENCE that Hindu extremism, particularly of the anti-Muslim variety, is flourishing in India under Narendra Modi’s rule is plentiful. Whether it is lynchings of Muslims over suspected cow slaughter, disenfranchisement of the community through discriminatory citizenship laws or communal statements made by those in power, hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric has very much become part of mainstream discourse in India. And there are enough examples of this toxic rhetoric transforming into violent action against the community. One recent event in the state of Uttarakhand illustrates how the forces of hate are free to preach in today’s India, often egged on by officials. The meeting was a jamboree of some of the leading lights of Hindutva, where the extremists of the Sangh Parivar threatened violence without inhibition. The statements emanating from this conclave are absolutely chilling for Muslims, as well as the country’s other religious minorities. A general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha issued a recruiting call for “100 soldiers who can kill 20 lakh of them [Muslims]” while one swami called for a Myanmar-like anti-Muslim pogrom in India. But Muslims were not the only target at this hate fest. One participant said he wished he had killed former Sikh prime minister Manmohan Singh, while another boasted he had asked hotels in his area not to host Christmas celebrations. There has been a backlash against these outrageous remarks amongst right-thinking Muslim and non-Muslim citizens in India, though the state has remained characteristically silent, with police saying they have launched an investigation.
It will be easy for BJP supporters to dismiss this as a gathering of ‘fringe elements’. However, the fact is that a member of the BJP was at the event, while many of those in attendance have deep ideological links to India’s ruling party. As one Muslim lawmaker put it, the event was an “incitement to genocide”. Furthermore, such anti-Muslim venom is not limited to fringe elements. In a recent row over Muslim prayers in public spaces in Gurgaon, the chief minister of Haryana, where the city is located, said such prayers would “not be tolerated”. All democratic forces in India, as well as New Delhi’s foreign friends who are usually silent over anti-minority violence in the country, need to speak up against the extremists of the Sangh. Clearly, as the events, cited above have shown, the intention of the Hindu extreme right is to foment anti-Muslim violence on a mass scale.
Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2021