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The growing Islamophobia in India is a cause for serious concern. Numerous edicts by the federal as well as local governments targeting Muslims have raised alarm bells over the growing political propaganda and extremely conservative religious politics in India.

The targeting of Muslims is not restricted to Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK) but covers the entire spectrum of Indian Muslims.

The anti-halal meat drive in Karnataka was rationalised by the ruling BJP as “economic jihad” and a way for Muslims to have a monopoly over the meat market. The extremist ruling junta declared that “Halal meat basically means Muslims offering the meat to Allah before it is sold. While it may be their religious practice, for Hindus it is a rejection of their community.”

In a continuation of imposing even more stringent decrees on Muslims, right wing outfits led by Bajrang Dal and Sriram Sena have now called for a ban on loudspeakers in mosques.

The growing Islamophobia, which has its roots in V.D. Sarvarkar’s Hindutva ideology, is being used to achieve a political dividend in India. The saffron brigade, led by Narendra Modi, who is a self-acclaimed RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) Parcharak (Activist) is exploiting Islamophobia to promote Savarkar’s philosophy of creating a Hindu Rashtra (Nation) by subjugating the Muslims to accept Hindu supremacy.

Islamophobia is not a new phenomenon but it has its traces in the history of the subcontinent—resentment towards the Islamic conquest of the Indian Sub-continent, divisive policies established by the colonial government during the period of British rule (particularly after the suppression of the 1857 War of

Independence against the East India Company), and the partition of India into an Islamic state of Pakistan and an Indian state with a Muslim minority.

A major factor in the rising Islamophobia is the proliferation of Hindu-nationalist parties. One of Savarkar’s successors, Golwalkar, who was obsessed with Hitler's Nazi-Germany, observed: "Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for use in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

Anti-Muslim riots prevailed in post-independence era, when fanatic Hindu marauders set upon hapless Muslim caravans migrating to Pakistan butchering and raping thousands of them.

The façade of secularism cloaked Islamophobia for a time but under the fanatic BJP regime, all gloves are off. In 1992, former-BJP leader L.K. Advani took the Hindutva-ideology to the mainstream of Indian politics by leading the Ram Rath Yatra and demolishing the historic Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Under the watch of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister, in 2002, over two thousand Muslims were massacred in the Indian state of Gujarat. He wasted no time when he assumed the mantle of Prime Minister in 2014 and launched a barrage of anti-Muslim assaults.

The August 5, 2019 revocation of Article 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution pertaining to Kashmir and annexing Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh in the Indian Union was a heinous crime against humanity repudiating UN Resolutions on Kashmir recognizing it as a disputed territory.

If that were not enough, The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019 to deprive Muslim immigrants from Citizenship rights was enforced. To rub salt into the injury, another draconian law, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), was slapped to keep Muslims out of the fold of Indian citizenship. National BJP President Amit Shah claimed “We will ensure implementation of NRC in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs.” The BJP, in essence, evoked an Indian civilization that excludes Muslims branding Islam as the religion of invaders, beef eaters, regressive burka-clad women, and terrorists.

In a conscious effort to convert the Muslim nation into a minority through efforts including the citizenship act, the Ghar Wapsi (Indian Muslims must return to their original Hindu fold) programme aims the conversion of Muslims into Hindus.

In a bid to distort history, the names of roads, towns and localities associated with Muslims is being changed as a part of statecraft-hood and would continue under the BJP regime.

Moreover, perpetrators of hate crimes against Muslims are often protected with impunity, and in some cases even tacitly or directly applauded. Lynching and terrorising Muslims in the name of beef eating, denigrating followers of love jihad (a term used by Hindu nationalists for Muslim men who supposedly “feign” love to “lure” Hindu women and convert them as a part of their conspiracy to turn India into a majority-Muslim nation) are often overlooked.

In its perverse bid to promote Islamophobia, Modi regime is hell bent upon castigating Pakistan, which it considers a thorn in its side. It launches false flag operations to blame Pakistan and surgical strikes like it did in the wake of the Uri attack in 2016 and Pulwama in 2019. Both feeble attempts by India ended in a disaster for it but Modi managed to spin the military fiasco into victory in the 2019 polls.

Muslims are the country’s largest minority group, forming 15 percent of the population, but they barely have less than 4 percent employment in government and military organisations. The perpetrators of the hate ideology often use Islamophobic rhetoric to establish conservative credentials and galvanize voters. They conflate Islam with terrorism and depict Muslims as inherently dangerous people. In one instance in 2016, BJP Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Anantkumar Hegde declared “as long as there is Islam in the world, there will be terrorism. Until we uproot Islam, we can’t remove terrorism.”

The world needs to take cognisance of the rising Islamophobia in India. It must be lauded that United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proposed by Pakistan declaring March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

If only India would pay heed to the perils of Islamophobia, which has wreaked havoc in the country with the propagation of Hindutva ideology. This ideology is a utopian concept of making a purely Hindu state with no rights or space for any other religion or even the discriminated poor Hindu communities.

The radical Modi regime has not refrained from using its burgeoning film industry from propagating hate against Muslims with fictitious tales of Muslims targeting Hindus.

The latest case in point is the Bollywood film Kashmir Files which has been endorsed by Narendra Modi on the alleged mass flight of Hindus from IIOK 30 years ago to stir up odium against Muslims. The movie has become the country’s highest-grossing film this year, it accuses Kashmiri fighters of committing excesses against Hindus and forcing hundreds of thousands of them to the valley during the early 1990s. BJP government has made entry to the film tax-free in most Indian states. It is ironic that Indian security forces have massacred over 100,000 Muslims in IIOK but according to official sources only 219 Kashmiri pundits lost their lives. Maliciously, the movie purports thousands of Hindus having been massacred by Muslims.

The implications of the BJP’s mushrooming anti-Muslim rhetoric are grave. If unchecked, it will fuel further religious discrimination and alienation of Muslim communities. India, which once boasted of being secular, is rapidly descending into a rabidly fanatic and extremist state.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst

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