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India: Calls for Muslim genocide the new norm

29th Apr 2022
India: Calls for Muslim genocide the new norm

A protest in New Delhi on April 16, against the rising number of attacks on Muslims, mosques, and Muslim-owned properties across India. (Credit: Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Anadolu Agency)

Shaqueen Mizaj

Muslims across India are facing escalating incidents of persecution and intolerance. Fuelled by the Karnataka High Court’s hijab ban in March the rise anti-Muslim sentiment is at an all time high and includes looting/torching of homes and shops, attacks for being ‘visibly Muslim’, open boycott campaigns on food, clothing and culture, vandalism of mosques, as well as attacks on Muslim political leaders. As a result, Muslims now feel unsafe in their own country.

For closing for a day in protest against the hijab ban, Muslim vendors were barred from the annual temple fairs in Karnataka. The Muslim vendors ban was followed by calls for a halal meat boycott by far-right Hindu organisations the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Bajrang Dal, and Sri Ram Sene.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had supported the move. Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene then called for a ban on loudspeakers in mosques, warning that they would play bhajans, devotional songs and hymns with religious and spiritual themes, at 5 am as a protest against Adhan from the loudspeakers at mosques.

During Ram Navami (a festival marking the birth of a Hindu deity) on April 10, several students were injured in sectarian clashes, stone-pelting, and arson incidents in Khargone and Barwani in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Mumbai, Goa, and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.


In Khargone, following the violence in which Muslim-owned houses, shops and vehicles destroyed, around 95 people, mostly Muslims, were arrested for allegedly pelting stones and trying to disrupt the the procession.

Visuals of a Hindutva mob brandishing swords and playing provocative music in front of a mosque were widely circulated. Social media was also flooded with videos of a Hindu man climbing on top of a mosque in Muzaffarpur, in the state of Bihar, and placing a saffron flag on the structure while the others cheered him on.

For the past few years, far-right groups have used Hindu festivals and events to deliberately provoke Muslims when they pass through Muslim neighbourhoods, with pseudo-devotees jeering at mosques or Muslim homes.

In less than 24 hours after the Khargone clashes, the district administration began a demolition drive under the guise of destroying ‘illegal, encroached establishments’, razing down Muslim owned houses and shops, citing their alleged involvement in the clashes, although such punishment is unlawful.

Only after a court conviction can punitive action in the form of imprisonment and/or fines be taken, not demolition of property. The news channels exploded with demolition visuals and ‘bulldozer politics’ debates.

International media are yet to cover the terror unleashed by the Hindutva demagogues. However, large sections, if not the majority, of the Indian media, have played a crucial role in demonising Muslims in the country. The silence of the opposition and secular parties has only added to the persecution.

No action is taken against the frequent anti-Muslim hate speeches by the Hindutva ideologues. A three-day conclave organised by Hindutva priest, Yati Narsinghanand, at Haridwar, a pilgrimage city in the state of Uttarakhand from December 17 to 19 last year, witnessed anti-Muslim hate speeches on a massive scale with multiple calls for genocide of Muslims and attack on their religious places. “Swords look good on stage only. This battle will be won by those with better weapons,” Narsinghanand said, calling for armed violence against Muslims.

Sadhvi Annapurna, General Secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, called for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. “Nothing is possible without weapons. If you want to eliminate their population, then kill them. Be ready to kill and get ready to go to jail. Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs [200,000] of them, we will be victorious and go to jail,” she said.
BJP leaders Ashwini Upadhyay and Udita Tyagi also took part in the event, which gave it a political boost from the ruling party.

Another right-wing representative from Bihar, Dharamdas Maharaj, in his address at the conclave, stated that he wished to kill the former PM, Manmohan Singh, for stating that ‘minorities have first right over national resources’. Calls for ethnic cleansing came a week after the Prime Minister reportedly said during a “Democracy Summit” convened by US President, Joe Biden, that the democratic spirit, including respect for the rule of law and a pluralistic ethos, is “ingrained in Indians”.

On April 2, Mahant Bajrang Muni Udasin, priest of the Badi Sangat Ashram in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, threatened mass rape of Muslim women, making the threats while sitting inside his jeep with the police watching on. “If you harass one Hindu woman, then I will openly abduct your sisters and daughters and rape them,” he said.

During the recent Ram Navami celebrations, Swami Prabodhanand Giri, the President of Sanatan Dharma Mahasangh, who had called for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims similar to that in Myanmar during the Haridwar conclave, said that “every Muslim is a threat to peace and has become a mad jihadi. I will repeat what I said in Haridwar. We have to wipe out the jihadis. And we have to work for this”.

On April 15, a clip of Yati Krishnanand, a Hindutva leader and disciple of Haridwar Dharam Sansad priests, surfaced online in which he claims that the mass killings as part of their holy war (Dharam Yudh) would start in Purvanchal, East Uttar Pradesh. Narsinghanand, who is currently out on bail after his arrest for hate speech in Haridwar, made another provocative speech on April 18, in Himachal Pradesh’s Una.

He called on Hindus to have more children to ensure India doesn’t “become an Islamic nation” and also claimed that 40 % of Hindus will be killed within 20 years if they do not become “strong”. His bail conditions ban him from delivering provocative speeches or attending events that may disturb the peace. So far, no action has been taken against him.

Vicious online slander targeting Muslim women is not new. The ‘Sulli Deals’ and ‘Bully Bai’ Apps that surfaced in 2020 and 2022 offered prominent Muslim women, including journalists, activists, and celebrities, in a fake online auction which included their images and personal details, and also posted inappropriate comments against them.

‘Sulli’ is a derogatory word used by right-wing groups to refer to Muslim women. The apps creators were granted bail in March. Another Hindutva weapon used against Muslims is the fictitious conspiracy theory of “Love Jihad,” in which Muslim men entice Hindu women into marriage by feigning love, deception, or kidnapping in order to convert them to Islam, and “Land Jihad,” in which Muslims conquer lands in order to build mosques.

‘Corona Jihad’ trended on social media, triggering attacks on Muslims after several attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat annual conference held in New Delhi in March 2020, tested positive for Covid-19. They were blamed for intentionally spreading the infection. In contrast, millions of Hindus gathered in Haridwar in April that year, for the Kumbh Mela festival, even as India battled the second wave of COVID.

Yet again, there is ‘Population Jihad’ alleging that Muslims reproduce at a faster rate than Hindus to turn India into a Muslim nation, and ‘Thook (Spit) Jihad’, which claims that Muslim grocers spit on food to spread disease. ‘UPSC Jihad’ refers to the supposed infiltration of the country’s civil service by Muslims.

According to the right-wing, Muslims also perform ‘History Jihad’ by manipulating history by glorifying Muslim periods and ‘Education Jihad’, by building madrasas and promoting Arabic. “Whatever it may actually mean, in the common perception, a jihadi is a terrorist, and the Indian right-wing keeps using that term to demonise Muslims,” said Pratik Sinha, founder and editor of Alt News, a fact-checking NGO.

“The larger narrative is that Muslims are trying to take over every aspect of the system.”

Under Modi’s rule, the spirit of India is Hindutva, thanks to the resurgence of Hindu nationalism aided by a widely propagated notion of Hindu victimhood and imminent danger from Muslims. When Modi talks of maintaining ‘peace and harmony’, it means that the minorities should know their place. The brainwashing of the people fed with anti-Muslim venom is almost complete. So is the marginalisation of Muslims. Systematic othering of Muslims through hate speech and disinformation has led to orchestrated violence against the community, their homes, mosques, educational institutions, and workplaces.

A Uniform Civil Code, which proposes a personal law of citizens applicable to all citizens across the country, regardless of their religion and gender, is on the way. The Citizenship Amendment Act, which became law on December 11, 2019, and the National Register of Citizens have the potential to render millions of Muslims in India, stateless.

These attempts that manifest anti-Muslim hatred and everything “Muslimish” can be seen as part of the Hindutva agenda of ‘saffron-ising’ the country. Saffron is the colour associated with Hinduism, the Hindu identity and spirit, and the Hindutva nationalist groups that attempt to transform India into a Hindu nation. Saffron stoles were distributed to the Hindu students, donning which they were seen heckling 18-year-old niqab-clad Muskan Khan in the visuals that surfaced during the hijab ban controversy in Karnataka.

The issue centred on the right of Muslim students to wear the hijab turned into a major political controversy with sectarian overtones and triggered violence in several places.
Emboldened by the growing hatred are radical Hindutva groups. Polarising Hindu voters against Muslims using old religious wounds, distorted history, and squashed voices of dissent has only rewarded Modi with electoral wins.

The atmosphere in several parts of the country is extremely volatile, as the government continues to institutionalise hatred against its largest minority group (200 million). While addressing an election rally in Jharkhand’s Dumka on December 15, 2019, Modi himself said that people who are “creating violence can be identified by their clothes”.

The goal is to destabilise and dehumanise Muslims by systematically removing them from social, political, and economic spheres. Calls for the lynching of Muslims have become the norm so much that it is no longer news. While Modi has maintained a deafening silence over these atrocities, refusing to condemn or take action against the perpetrators, any voices of dissent, be it from opposition parties, journalists, activists or university students, are immediately suppressed with charges of sedition.

Foreign criticism is rejected or refuted. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said that the US was monitoring recent concerning developments in India, including “a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police, and prison officials”. His remarks came days after US congressional rep Ilhan Omar questioned the Biden administration’s alleged reluctance to criticise Modi over the human rights violations. “What does Modi need to do to India’s Muslim population before we stop considering them a partner in peace?” Omar asked.

As an Indian Muslim hijabi woman living not far from the epicentres of anti-Muslim violence, it is frightening, and disturbing to wake up to the news of genocide threats and oppression of Muslims. India’s unique cultural and religious plurality is crucial to preserving its very ethos. If India continues to succumb to the Hindutva agenda, our children may never get to see the diverse country that our fathers and forefathers knew.

Editorial: Is India exempt from human rights abuses?

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