When Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister in 2014 his electioneering slogan had been Sabka saath, sabka vikas (All together, development for all), but one year into his Government, it is quite clear that for the man who loves coining catchy slogans, that was all this was – a slogan, and he had no intention of putting it into practise. For Modi the ‘All’ in his slogan is essentially ‘All Hindus’, and there is no need or room for Muslims.
Modi had coined this particular slogan as damage-control for the beating his image had received around the world as a religiously divisive leader after he presided over the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom carried out in the western state of Gujarat as its Chief Minister. When 3,000 Muslims were killed and hundreds of thousands lost their homes and businesses under his watch, Modi did not bat an eyelid and instead justified the violence with Newton’s law of motion “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” He received notoriety even in the rest of India as a politician, who at best didn’t care about non-Hindu religious minorities and at worst hated them. His first year as Prime Minister has shown that Modi’s attitude towards Indian Muslims and Christians has not changed at all.
Immediately after Modi’s election in May last year, the ‘Hindu Nationalist’ forces were so emboldened that attacks against Indian Muslims and Christians began to rise at an alarming rate. Newspapers reported that in the first few months of Modi’s Prime Ministership there were 600 large and small sectarian ‘incidents’ across northern India. This trend has continued throughout the year and religious minorities effectively live in fear for their lives and property. Churches are burnt and intentional sparks are lit for skirmishes between Hindus and Muslim neighbours who till now had lived peacefully together.
The latest such ‘incident’ took place on May 25, ironically, the day before Modi celebrated his first anniversary as PM. Muslim families were attacked by a Hindu mob in Atali village of Haryana state in northern India.
The ostensible ‘reason’ for the attack is a dispute over a 30-year-old mosque. The Hindus of the village claimed it was built on land owned by them while the Muslims said it was built on their land. The dispute was taken to court in 2009 and finally two months ago the court ruled in favour of the Muslims. The Hindus refused to accept the court’s decision and threatened to tear down the mosque as it stood next to a temple. Add an impending local election to this volatile mix and you have a fire waiting to be lit.
So a violent Hindu mob attacked Muslim living around the mosque and burnt down at least 20 houses and forced out 400 Muslims from their homes and who are now taking shelter in makeshift camps. According to the Muslims, the attack was pre-planned and the violent mob came prepared with guns, sickles, swords, kerosene, tractor full of stones and carloads of Hindus from other villages.
This sequence of events is the modus operandi that Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, used repeatedly in Gujarat during the 12 years he was in power as Chief Minister with the net effect that Hindus and Muslims are now completely polarised and living in religious ghettos.
While Modi as Prime Minister has not openly made any anti-Muslim comments, he has not condemned such incidents or provided security to the minority communities either. For a man known for his rhetoric, it is his silence which is the most eloquent. Ministers and MPs in his Government have openly made hate speeches against Muslims and Christians, but Modi has not stopped them.
At domestic and international forums Modi speaks eloquently of tolerance and accommodation as part of the Indian ethos, but in reality his Government does not wish to tolerate or accommodate Indian Muslims.
Another telling example of what Modi feels about Muslims is in his choice of Jayapur as the village he has handpicked to develop and turn into a model village. Varanasi Parliamentary constituency that Modi is elected from has about 25 per cent Muslim residents, but Jayapur is the only village that doesn’t have a single Muslim resident!
The BJP and Modi may be talking of development for all, but the ‘all’ is selective – it doesn’t include Muslims.
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