What is at stake for India?
BJP’s growing resentment for Muslims has appeared in various shades and forms; but, the latest remarks by a party’s spokeswoman against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) last week have emboldened Muslims to get even with hardliner Hindus. Many Gulf states and other Muslim countries objected to the obnoxious remarks and warned of severing ties with India. As a result, BJP has swiftly sacked both party workers. However, the question is: Will BJP mend its ways and let India behave like a real democracy, or was the decision to distance itself from its workers’ remarks a gimmick to save India’s economic interests in Muslim countries?
Home to 1.4 billion people, India has remained for decades committed to the democratic values of coexistence, pluralism and diversity. Not that there were no communal riots or that Indians had stopped discriminating against people based on their castes-- but the situation never went so far as to give the impression that India belongs to Hindus only. Christians and Dalit have been targeted over the years, but the worst treatment was meted out to Muslims. Things turned so ugly that Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, had to warn the world to watch for the unfolding of the genocide of Muslims in India. His prediction of the massacre of the Tutsi community in Rwanda in 1994 proved correct.
The beast of genocide feeds on the fodder of hate. From the clothes to the symbols of Islam to the manner of worship and religious rites, each has been abused. In May this year, women wearing hijab were barred from entering their colleges in the southern state of Karnataka. Other states followed, and a debate was broached in the media on bringing a law that bars people from wearing a religious outfit in public places, especially in educational institutions. Hindu nationalists chased hijab-wearing women and forced them to take it off. Cows, sacred animals in Hindu mythology, have been a huge cause of lynching Muslim traders, buyers and consumers of beef. The irony is that according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, “India is forecast to be the third largest beef exporting country in 2022 with exports increasing yearly from 2021 levels. India was the largest global beef exporter from 2014-2016 but slowed and declined to a recent low in 2020 before recovering.”
Will BJP mend its ways and let India behave like a real democracy, or was the decision to distance itself from its workers’ remarks a gimmick to save India’s economic interests in Muslim countries?
This duplicitous behaviour proves that it is not Hindu supremacy per se that ignites the Hindus against Muslims in India; it is their resentment towards the 1,000 years of Muslim rule in the sub-continent and the partition of the so-called Bharat Mata with the creation of Pakistan.
It has been almost seven years that BJP has been in power, and the lives of Muslims in India have become hell. But we never heard any condemnation of this behaviour other than in the routine HRCP or US-based NGO’s reports. This was the first time that Islamic countries reacted so strongly. We have not found any Muslim country concerned over the demolition of houses of some Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. Though the local administration claims the houses were illegally constructed, the tweet from Mrityunjay Kumar, Mr Adityanath's media adviser, spilt the beans. He tagged a photo of a bulldozer demolishing a building with the tweet, "Unruly elements remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday." A former chief justice of the Allahabad high court told The Indian Express newspaper that demolishing the houses was "totally illegal".
The question is: What is at stake for India?
In a world that has moved from geo-politics to geo-economics, decisions about international relations are made on the yield gained from trade and investment. We have come a long way from the era when identities mattered. And therefore despite its undemocratic behaviour towards Muslims, and the hue and cry currently raised, nothing really is at stake for India.
— Durdana Najam is an oped writer based in Lahore. She writes on security and policy issues.