EDITORIAL: Incidents of discrimination and violence against minorities, especially Muslims, seem to follow a pretty clear pattern in Narendra Modi’s India. Government-sponsored mobs, or government-backed bodies, sometimes even senior government officials or ministers, provoke non-Hindu communities by hitting at their most sensitive religious beliefs, force a reaction, and then the state clamps down on “dissent” very strongly.

And no matter how distasteful some of the unintended consequences of such actions become sometimes, you can be sure that there won’t be so much as a murmur from the Indian prime minister’s office. And so it is this time as well. Even as the reaction to the latest derogatory comments about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by BJP leaders spread farther than the usual India-Pakistan Muslim community, and drew the condemnation from across the Islamic world and the US, the central government is behaving as if nothing has happened.

That this attitude has given the far-right Hindutva brigade a virtual carte blanche to do as it pleases is pretty obvious. So long as nobody in Delhi is too bothered about state governments going the extra mile to stomp dissent, like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordering demolition of houses of Muslims accused of leading last week’s protests in this case, minorities can be kept in line no matter how much of a fuss they try to make.

Yet the Modi government is only able to allow these excesses because it knows how much of the international community willingly turns a blind eye to it only because of India’s irresistible marketing pull. Once that changes, and countries it relies on for business start pointing fingers at its horrible human rights portfolio, things will start changing in a hurry.

That’s why Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari did the right thing by following the government’s ceremonial official condemnation of the BJP leaders’ remarks as well as the Indian government’s strong arm tactics, which include killing protestors and destroying their homes, by getting in touch with the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) Secretary General Hissain Brahim Taha and calling for a strong, unified response.

Modi would not want to upset relations with rich Gulf countries, even to feed his hardline electoral base at home, because that would risk pushing India out of a foreign policy space that it has carefully carved over many years. And once Muslim countries put their foot down and take a firm, principled stance, other countries will also begin to see the sense in forcing Delhi to fall in line before any more damage is done.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the international community can give India a reality check, there is no doubt that the neighbour has forever changed from a country with a uniquely pluralistic constitution and its own, special concept of secularism.

It’s now been taken over, at all levels, by dogmatic champions of extreme right Hindutva; a violent political philosophy which calls for the exclusion of all others. And while followers of all religions alien to the soil of India are seen and treated as interlopers, they have a very special hatred for Muslims primarily because of the long centuries of Islamic rule stretching from the Delhi sultanate to the Mughal empire. Hence the periodic, carefully-crafted, attacks on Muslims up and down the country; and the Modi administration’s silent approval.

But now that this pattern has been exposed to the world, thanks largely to Pakistan’s initiatives, powerful nations in the international community also bear the responsibility of doing something about it. Already, videos of police torturing Muslims to keep them from their right to protest, in the ‘largest democracy’ in the world, have gone viral and confirmed the strong link between the Hindu mob and the country’s security apparatus.

Modi will count on the fact that the world has let far worse headlines about Kashmir pass without batting an eyelid. And that the trend of India outdoing itself every now and then when it comes to inflicting atrocities upon the Kashmiri people is matched only by the confirmed trend of the most powerful countries in the world simply ignoring it every time.

That, precisely, explains the method in his madness. He knows that they are salivating at the prospect of a small piece of India’s giant market, and they’re only too used to overlooking whatever they have to for as long as they have to in order to get what they want.

And going by how almost a decade of the Modi administration has seen public spectacles like cow vigilantism, so-called cow lynchings, revocation of Kashmir’s special status, the citizenship amendment act (CAA), and now a clear attempt to humiliate and sideline Muslims, it doesn’t seem as if it feels that the future, at least as far as the international response is concerned, is going to be any different than the past.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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