Hindutva violence

Published January 26, 2024

THE acts of violence and vandalism carried out by Hindu fanatics targeting India’s Muslim community, linked to the opening of the Ram Mandir on the Babri Masjid site on Monday, are a worrying portent. They point to shrinking space for India’s minorities in a country ruled by the Sangh Parivar, where their lives, property and dignity can be violated at any time. There had been fears that the event in Ayodhya, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the celebrations, would turbocharge zealots and lead to communal trouble, and many Muslims in the Uttar Pradesh town had sent their families to safer locales. As it turned out, these fears were well-founded. Violent events have been reported from UP, Maharashtra, Gujarat and other Indian states after the mandir opening. A mob of between 1,000 and 1,500 Hindu extremists stormed a Mughal-era mosque on Jan 22 in Agra and threatened those inside. Meanwhile, in Mumbai’s suburbs, mobs ransacked Muslim stores or any establishment not displaying saffron flags. Local reports indicate that police took no action, while in many instances, the law enforcers were reluctant to register FIRs against the rioters. Muslims were not the only community targeted by the Sangh’s shock troops; individuals in Madhya Pradesh planted a saffron flag, inscribed with Hindu symbols, atop a church.

Such appalling incidents have become frequent during the BJP’s decade-old rule over India. Hindu mobs, often chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ — the Sangh’s war cry — or blasting offensive tunes terrorise Muslim neighbourhoods or show up outside mosques. The mandir opening — a divisive symbol of the Sangh’s victory over Indian secularism — and the likely return of the BJP in this year’s elections spells more trouble for Indian Muslims and other minorities. The question the international community should be asking is this: can India project an image of a rising global power, while also subjecting its minority communities to violence fuelled by mediaeval hatreds, and get away with it?

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2024

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