No Country for Muslims

Modi’s time in power will undoubtedly be considered as one of the
darkest periods in the annals of Indian history.

By Taha Kehar | October 2020

India’s shrinking minority space has been the subject of controversy since the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party assumed public office in 2014. The re-election of the right-wing party has emboldened Hindutva activists to flout the secular principles of the Indian Constitution and discriminate against Muslims with impunity.

Policy initiatives have been weighted against the country’s 200 million-strong Muslim community and BJP leaders haven’t shied away from making anti-Muslim speeches. Fuelled by these fascist sensibilities, party supporters and self-styled vigilantes have carried out violent attacks against the Muslims. More often than not, these unscrupulous elements have been granted political protection and their conduct is frequently endorsed by the RSS-backed ruling party.

Analysts believe that the eruption of violence against Muslims during Modi’s tenure is linked to India’s turbulent relations with Pakistan and the misguided belief that the allegiance of Indian Muslims lies across the border. However, the surge in anti-Muslim sentiment can also be attributed to efforts to expunge the public memory of India’s Mughal past and colonial policies of ‘divide and rule’. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that communal conflicts between both communities were heightened after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. As a result, sectarian violence against Muslims morphed into systematic, state-sponsored massacres, such as those witnessed in Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar.

While it would be wrong to assume that all Muslims have been shortchanged by politically-motivated attacks, the search for a silver lining cannot disguise the fact that India’s largest minority is under threat. The progress of Indian Muslims has been hampered by four critical factors that ought to be addressed by the relevant authorities.

First, a large segment of the Muslim population in India is believed to be economically disadvantaged. Statistics indicate that Muslims are more likely than the rest of the country’s population to live below the poverty line. Interestingly,the literacy rate among Muslim has grown exponentially between 2001 and 2011. This could pave the way for the community to improve its socioeconomic status and stave off attempts to radicalize the Muslim youth. According to a report published on the website of the Observer Research Foundation, literacy has been one of the key reasons to explain the failure of the Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent to recruit Muslims in India. Be that as it may, the hammer strokes of Hindutva politics and the popularity of this right-wing ideology has made it increasingly difficult for the community to achieve social progress.

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