LYNCHING of minorities in the name of religion took centre stage in India when about 20 Hindu zealots attacked four Muslims on a train in the outskirts of New Delhi, fatally stabbing a teenager and injuring the two others in June 2017. Following this attack, On June 22, three Muslims were killed in West Bengal state after being accused of cow smuggling. The rise of communal violence and religious extremism in India, which is ingrained in RSS ideology, is not a new phenomenon as its foundation goes back to pre-partition times of the Indian subcontinent. Following its dubious strategies against marginalized factions of society, the current BJP Indian leadership propagates to accept the diversity of Indian social fabric; but, the treatment of Indian minorities tells an entirely different story.
Non-religious tendency of Congress, deep rooted divisions within the Indian society, and demands of dominant environment pushed India to commit their political system to so-called Secularism. What Nehru wanted was the preservation of Indian unity through an ideology that remains grounded in its secular outlook. However, unfortunately, the fact remains that throughout its history, Hindu fanaticism has largely dominated the social sphere of the Indian society. Ahmedabad riots in 1969 and Bhagalpur violence of 1989 are the cases in point.
Long before the partition of subcontinent, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar laid the foundations of Hindu nationalism in 1923, when his seminal work, ‘’Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?’’, became the source of principles that shaped the ideology of Hindu Nationalism. This was followed by the establishment of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925, aimed at ensuring the unity of Hindu community to form Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). Earlier after independence, facing the threat of losing the dominance in the face of Congress, favouring secular nature of political arrangement, RSS came up with its own political wing Bharatiya Janata Sangh (BJS). Despite being part of the first non-Congress coalition government of 1977, BJS failed to mobilize Hindu community to form Hindu Rashtra. RSS had a rebirth in 1980, when Bharatiya Janata Party was launched as a new political face of RSS, which heads the Sangh Parivar (group of Hindu extremist organizations). Since then, RSS has successfully socialized its narrative within the Indian society aimed at marginalization of minorities particularly Muslims and Christians. Babri Mosque incident of 1992 and anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 reflect the gradual internalization of extremist narrative propagated by the RSS and its political wing, BJP.
Narendar Modi, a devotee of RSS and staunch advocate of the establishment of Hindutva as the dominant ideology in secular India, assumed power as the 15th Prime Minister of India in May 2014. Under Modi administration, according to lndia’s Home Ministry figures, in 2015, India experienced a 17 per cent increase in communal violence, when compared to the previous year. In 2015, there were 751 reported incidents of communal violence, up from 644 in 2014. Mob-killing has become the order of the day in India. Of 63 attacks reported since 2010, 61 took place under Modi government. 24 out of 28 people killed in attacks were Muslims. During the first six months of 2017, 20 cow- or -beef-related attacks were recorded in India. Hinduization of India has damaged the professed secular fabric of the society. It has resulted in inequality, political and administrative discrimination, patriarchal control, threats to physical security of minorities and consolidation of exclusionary practices. Unity of Indian nation is largely threatened by the forced cultural transformation of minorities. Campaigns like ‘’Love Jihad’’ and ‘’Ghar Wapsi’’, aimed at achieving the cultural homogeneity are fraught with the grave ramifications for the country. Grievances of minorities are more likely to instigate reactionary elements within the minority groupings.
In India itself, there are still strong holdouts resistant to religious intolerance and communal violence. Moderate forces within the Indian society are significantly resisting the Hindutva inspired policies of the government. Earlier in 2015-16, over 50 writers and filmmakers from India have returned top Government awards and prominent scientists have signed petitions against rising communal polarization and attacks on free speech. In the face of recent events of mob-lynching in different parts of India, demonstrations were carried out in 11 Indian cities, thousands of people gathered, to condemn acts of violence directed against minorities. The most important bulwark against state-led violence and persecution of minorities is just one: public opinion, especially the voice of public intellectuals.
During the recent times, India is trying to project itself as a key player in international politics and is demanding the same responsibilities, prerogatives and obligations as the current permanent members of United Nations Security Council have. Keeping in view the abysmal human rights record of India, it can be argued that a country with such a poor human rights record at home can’t strive for a key role in international political affairs. It’s high time that international community and international organizations take the effective measures to ensure the availability of basic human rights to the minorities of India. Besides this, Indian government is required to conform its conduct to the international human rights regimes to reshape its image as a responsible state. The purported universality of minority rights requires its availability to minorities living under the world’s largest democracy.
— The writer is Research Intern at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.