Why are Democratic Norms & Religious Harmony need of the Hour in India? | Muhammad Shoaib

India G20

The phenomenon of religious radicalism has engulfed the entire globe, mainly driven by Islamophobia. It is only the Indian government which has adopted and implemented the policies that promote the Hindu Nationalist agenda and religious fanaticism. Muslims throughout the world took to social media to express their outrage at the remarks made by two Indian Bharatiya Janata Party members concerning the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Two members of India’s governing party stated things that were disrespectful to Muslims. The administration chose to employ force against demonstrators rather than discipline members of their party, which sparked a flurry of violence in the Muslim world.

Response of Muslims around the world

As word spread of the blasphemous statement and the government’s deployment of force in India, Muslim nations were outraged and demanded action. Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia summoned the Indian envoys to demand an apology from the Indian government. In light of a series of decisions banning headscarves in educational institutions in several Indian states and demolishing Muslim property, as well as an increase in irrationality and violence, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) strongly condemned the offensive comments, saying that they come “in the context of India’s escalation of hatred and abuse of Islam.”

In response to the OIC remarks, instead of being apologetic, the Indian government termed it as “unwarranted” and “narrow-minded”. This represents the prevailing dominating Hindu Nationalist ‘Hindutva Ideology’ in India’s key doctrine of BJP government-sponsored organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

US reaction

While replying to the question, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned the “offensive remarks” made by ruling party BJP members Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar. Ned said, “this is something that we have condemned. We condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials.”

Although the Indian ruling party, under pressure from the international and Muslim community, expelled the two of the party member, it remains the fact that their decision did not come out of respect for other religions. Rather, it came because of economic interests. 

According to the open-source data, Indian trade with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is approximately US 90 billion dollars.

Witch-hunting of Muslims in India

Moreover, it is not the first case where the BJP leadership targeted the Muslims. In the recent past, the Indian Prime Minister also passed Islamophobic comments publically and tried to connect terrorism and religious extremism with Muslims.

Similarly, the BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath also made anti-Muslim speeches during his election campaign. Indian political leadership has used the religion card and anti-Islamic rhetorics for their domestic political gains, which clearly indicates that India has become an Islamophobic state under the BJP government.

US state department report, published in May 2022, highlights that there were rising human rights violations, especially against the minorities in India. US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in a 2021 report, said that religious freedom conditions in India were worse and recommended it as a country of particular concern. 

According to the news reports, the government in the state of Uttar Pradesh had made at least 300 arrests who protested against the objectionable remarks against the Holy Prophet (PBUH). State terrorism has crossed the limits, and they even demolished the houses of those who protested on the issue.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published this year also highlights the same concerns regarding worsening human rights conditions in India, including the use of brute force, curtailing freedom of expression, forced conversion of Christians, mob lynching of Muslims and introduction of controversial policies and law. Even the farmers are facing problems, and the Sikh community is the target of Hindu extremist ideology.

The HRW report mentioned that National Crime Records Bureau reported 50,291 cases of crimes against Dalits in 2020 which indicates that even the “low caste” Hindus are not safe in India. There were more than 200 people in Uttarakhand, India, who were reported to be members of several Hindu nationalist organisations when they stormed a church in Uttarakhand. The threats of burning down churches in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh were also reported. Hindu nationalist organisations targeted churches in the state of Chhattisgarh.

Immediate and long-term reforms

In a nutshell, the diplomatic pressure received by India from OIC and GCC may constrain the rising Islamophobia for the time being, but their policies towards religious minorities need to be monitored. The economic factor played a key factor in which India expelled their party members. The International community, Human rights watch organizations, and Islamic countries can control the human rights violation in India through united action.

Read: Religious leaders condemn blasphemy by Indian BJP leader

The author holds an M.Phil degree from National Defence University. He is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].