The Season of Unending Misery

(Ehtisham Amer, )

Humans built many an institution over history for effective governance. Starting from a family unit and ending up in tribes and clans wasn’t achieved over a century but millennia, perhaps. All rules, laws, and conventions were and are framed for one basic, fundamental purpose in mind: protecting the vulnerable against the abuse of power by majority. That’s the underlying reason for all human activity in all of its manifestations. Laws to protect women and not men, conventions to protect rights of children and not the adults and we have sets of other laws and conventions to protect and safeguard interests of weaker parties in any disagreement or dispute of any nature.

India prides and projects itself as the largest democracy of the world. By sheer numbers, the claim isn’t very defective. But any attempt to dig deeper than skin reveals sins of horrendous proportion, enough to make even a moderate totalitarian state look magnanimous. Indian politics has been tilting, very visibly, towards rightwing extremist agenda over the last three decades. When the world at large was busy transforming state and society towards more tolerant and inclusive statehood, India has been breeding its kind of extremism in plain sight.

2014 and life thereafter has been a case of a sudden departure from the high morals of secularism and tolerant India, enshrined in the Indian constitution and professed by founding fathers of India. Well, India holds a unique ignominy to have assassinated its father of the nation within 6 months of its founding. That is a story for some other times.
The gene of communal hatred, released by BJP since 2014, has now started to stare India in eyes. Politics of hatred and religious divide has turned India into a country which is a shadow of its tolerant past. Being a Muslim in India, the largest minority comprising nearly 18 % of the population, is now like a German Jew under the Nazi regime: limited rights as a citizen in your country of birth.

BJP, the ruling party of India, has never expressed any desire to be seen as a secular party. It knows its core constituency and does every political gimmick to keep attracting more political mass. Muslims have paid for the rise of the fortune of BJP with their blood. BJP knows it and has made every effort to turn Muslims in particular and all minorities in general to accept the status of an unequal citizen within India.

BJP has adopted a clever strategy for this ignominious purpose. Modern democratic states make conscious efforts to avoid the label of intolerant state. All efforts are made to improve the image as a benevolent, all-encompassing state which treats all of its citizens equally without prejudice to race, religion, or ethnicity. That’s not what BJP wants to be seen as. India is diverse is a given fact. How this diversity is managed is what makes India stand out. Under BJP, there is an institutional effort to turn Muslims and minorities as nonexistent beings.

Lynching was an uncommon practice in pre-BJP India. BJP government of 2014 created, what many call, an eco-system of Muslim hatred leading to mob lynching. Before BJP, state institutions made some effort to readdress Muslim grievances and kept a lid on communal hatred. BJP removed the lid, led the charge against minorities, and has brought India to a point where minorities are openly threatened by cow vigilantes. TV anchors, with communal hatred driven agenda, have found their rating and fortune soar over the last 5 years.

There is however a method to this madness. BJP has deliberately promoted Muslim lynching and acts of cow vigilantes. Effort is made to give wide circulation to the videos and acts of Muslim lynching. The question arises as to why would a government deliberately tries to promote a negative image of its governance deficiencies.

India is a lucrative market for western goods and services and here lies the future growth of world commerce. India’s middle class, at 360 million, is larger than the population of the USA and about to catch up with the EU zone (445 million). India has promoted itself as a counter lever to Chinese expansionist designs and is becoming darling of the west.

When mob lynching and brutalities against Muslims are given wide coverage on social and mainstream media, Muslims are harassed and traumatized. When state institutions fail to provide security to minorities, faith in state apparatus is further lowered. This psychological warfare against Muslims has turned them to look inward and settle in modern-day equivalents of Ghettos. The systemic disenfranchisement of Muslims was evident during the 2019 elections when BJP did not offer its ticket to any Muslim candidate. That was a clear message to 220 million Muslims that they Do not matter to BJP, thus to India. Muslim representation in the lower house of India fell from 49 in 1980 to 29 in 2019. This occurred when the Muslim population has increased from 80 million (1981) to 200 million (2019 estimates).

How Muslim hatred threatens Indian society came to light when a Hindu boy, with a Muslim sounding name (Sahil), was lynched for chasing a Hindu girl. Only when his Hindu identity was revealed, that state apparatus agreed to take the culprits to court of law. As a Muslim, Sahil would not have had this luxury to see his murders being prosecuted.

All independent studies, media reporting point to a dangerous trend of state patronage of communal violence. State either facilitates or looks the other way when Muslims are subjected to brutalities. World consciousness has however been shaken out of slumber after a brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in Delhi against controversial citizenship act, which makes a case for turning Muslim population as second-class citizens of India with no or minimal rights.

This atmosphere of fear has turned Muslims into an object of vilifications and Muslim vendors and traders face social and commercial boycott, making it harder to survive. How would India look like for minorities when the term of BJP ends in 2024 is anybody’s guess. The world had witnessed the Nazi regime push its Jewish citizens into holocaust in the 20th century. Another holocaust of a bigger proportion is brewing in India. Is anyone concerned about it?

(The writer is a security analyst, based in Islamabad)
 

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