Muslims in India

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Editorial, The Dawn

POST-Ram temple India is another country where a new religious edifice has become a flashpoint as social injustices rise. Days after its consecration, the BJP government, determined to make Muslims, their heritage and history invisible, looked away as Hindutva groups and mobs unleashed atrocities against the community across ‘saffron Bharat’.

Once again, the turmoil reached ancient mosques — the same week an Indian court allowed Hindus to perform rituals inside the disputed 17th-century Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi that was built by the Mughals; Hindu litigants claim it replaced a Shiva temple.

Subsequently, the 13th-century Akhunji mosque, madressah and graveyard in Delhi’s historic Mehrauli area were wiped out in the dead of the night, leaving the muezzin homeless. While authorities say it was an ‘illegal structure’, top Muslim leaders have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to halt mosque versus temple disputes.

These atrocities are a sign of the times: the far-right narrative of many old mosques being temples that were destroyed by Muslim monarchs, despite historians refuting it due to scarce material evidence, is louder and more potent. Hence, in a landscape marked by Hindutva war cries, the breakneck speed of the sociocultural homogenisation under RSS-BJP rule begs a question: has the opening of the temple in Ayodhya declared war on Muslims?

As Mr Modi stokes communal fires to clinch a third term in power and level Jawaharlal Nehru’s score, his India is the antithesis of the Nehruvian vision — a modern, non-aligned nation centred on secularism, social justice and democracy. But, radical Hindutva forces have either altered this vision beyond recognition or abandoned it.

Although the UN has been approached by Pakistan to take action for the protection of Islamic sites in India, the BJP appears resolute about blurring the lines between politics and religion, weaponising history and monuments and reducing Muslims to what they eat and wear.

The fresh wave of saffron violence is not without a message: Mr Modi’s India will be built on the debris of communal harmony. There are stages to the erasure of Muslim inheritance and culture — neglect, oppress and destroy — translating into serious consequences for decades of diversity and pluralism.

The bigger blow for Indian Muslims is that institutions and the security apparatus are letting them down, thereby endorsing the chants of a Hindu ‘rashtra’ and acts of majoritarian abuse.

(First Published in The Dawn)

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I write because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, said George Orwell. As a writer, I never kowtow to the whims and dictates of the sacred godmen or godwomen, the political bigots and hypocrites, dealers of laymen, the dishonest and self-serving intellectuals, traders of religions, the betrayers of ‘other’ Indians who eke out a living by their sweat, who are living in fear for being lynched for this and that.

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