The chants of ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ echoed across Kanpur, a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in India, as a Hindutva-inspired extremist mob paraded a 45-year-old Muslim rickshaw driver through the streets as his daughter begged the crowd to stop. The video took over social media but the general consensus among the populace is that these lynch mobs have become a routine in India followed by little condemnation and little tangible action from New Delhi.
This gruesome attack followed an incident in Indore, a city in the central state of Madhya Pradesh where a Muslim bangle-seller was the target of the Hindu vigilante mob. In the police complaint, Tasleem Ali, the victim in question, alleged five-six men hurled communal slurs at him for selling bangles in a Hindu-dominated area while robbing him of his money and other valuables. If the assault was not enough, what followed the complaint evoked the horrific memories of Nazi Germany. Ali was arrested the very next day on the allegation that he had molested the 13-year-old daughter of one of his alleged attackers. The eyewitnesses say Ali’s religious identity was the sole reason behind the assault and the baseless accusation against him.
The comparison with Nazi Germany might have been a misplaced assertion had these been isolated incidents in a society where communal harmony was thriving. These two attacks are just a sneak peek into the fallacy that is the largest ‘secular democracy’ India claims to be. Attacks of similar nature have been commonplace, especially since 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janta Party swept to power and then was re-elected with a bigger majority for a second term. It has been 7 years that the extremist Hindutva ideology has enjoyed the state-backing.
The assault of a 14-year-old Muslim boy for entering a Hindu temple to drink water in March, beating of a vendor for selling fruit in a New Delhi Hindu locality in June, and putting up Muslim women “for sale” online in July are some of the heinous, appalling events this year alone. If this was not enough, a Muslim member of the Congress party Ms Amin, including others, were offered in another mock online auction. The cow vigilantism needs no introduction.
Even over 70-years after the Independence of India, the religious divide has permeated but the critics say that the Muslim hate has spiked since 2014 under the Hindu nationalist government. The experts say that the violence against minorities, especially Muslims have become very acceptable in India and three-four videos get viral every day on social media depicting atrocious violence against the minorities. Academics say that communal violence is not recent in India but the power structures have enabled political mobilization and vigilantism. One recent example of blatant patronage of the perpetrators was when a union minister of state garlanded eight Hindus convicted for lynching a Muslim.
The claim that the government is complicit in the violence is not really untrue. In the aftermath of these rampant incidents, Prime Minister Modi has faced repeated criticism for not reproaching the attacks swiftly or strongly enough either. The federal government’s official line is that lynching is bad but the individual states are responsible for implementing law and order. Moreover, the BJP government repeatedly accuses the media of “biased and selective journalism” by focusing on attacks on Muslims. Fact-checking websites said that more than 90 per cent of the victims of hate crimes in the past 10 years were Muslims.
The Nazi equivalent becomes more relevant when the violence takes a more subtle, insidious form that vilifies and demonises the minority community. The BJP government perpetrated the idea of ‘corona jihad’ when the Muslim community attended a religious gathering in Delhi. This incident followed ‘roti jihad’, ‘love jihad’, and the list goes on. The power structure is using laws subjugate while the BJP rallies are rife with slogans calling for Muslims to be killed.
Violence, both delicate and blatant, has become mainstream in Modi’s India. There is a favourable political and social atmosphere that encourages attacks on Muslims where the assailants are protected, if not rewarded, for their actions.