Modi’s In­dia is a liv­ing night­mare for Mus­lims

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Rana Ayyub

At the crack of dawn on Dec. 5, 1992 , my mother found a poster on the door of our apart­ment in Mum­bai ( then Bom­bay). The poster had an im­age of the Babri Mosque, painted in black with men hold­ing swords stand­ing in a cir­cle around the mon­u­ment. It read “Chalo Ay­o­d­hya 6 De­cem­ber” ( let’s march to Ay­o­d­hya on Dec. 6). The Babri Masjid, a 16th- cen­tury mosque built by Mughal em­peror Babur in Ay­o­d­hya, a town 960 miles from Mum­bai, had been a dis­puted struc­ture for years; some Hindu lead­ers al­leged that it was built over the birth­place of Lord Ram. In the 1990s, right-wing Hindu lead­ers and mem­bers of the con­ser­va­tive Bharatiya Janata Party started a po­lar­iz­ing move­ment, and ul­ti­mately called on Hin­dus all over the coun­try to con­verge in Ay­o­d­hya on Dec. 6 to de­mol­ish the mosque.

Hindu na­tion­al­ists re­sponded to that call and climbed on top of the mosque bran­dish­ing swords. The grand mosque, a sym­bol of faith for In­dia’s largest mi­nor­ity, was razed to the ground. Overnight the pa­tri­arch of our fam­ily, who was feted as a pro­gres­sive writer and a gov­ern­ment school teacher, was re­duced to be­ing merely a “Mus­lim.” Provoca­tive speeches by lead­ers of the BJP and other right-wing groups fu­eled a whirl­wind of car­nage: More than 2,000 peo­ple, mostly Mus­lims, were killed around coun­try; Mum­bai alone wit­nessed 500 mur­ders.

It was then that we, the sole Mus­lim oc­cu­pants of a Hindu res­i­den­tial colony, be­gan to feel that we didn’t be­long. We moved to a Mus­lim-dom­i­nated pocket of Mum­bai -- In­dia’s most cos­mopoli­tan city.

BJP and its lead­ers who led the cam­paign for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ay­o­d­hya were voted to power in the gen­eral elec­tion that fol­lowed.

Twenty- six years later, as In­dia marks the an­niver­sary of the demolition of the mosque, In­dian Mus­lims con­tinue to live their worst night­mare as they wake up each morn­ing to hu­mil­i­at­ing and threat­en­ing dis­course by leg­is­la­tors and mem­bers of the rul­ing party.

Anti-Mus­lim hate crimes are not just en­cour­aged but also re­warded by those in power. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port on hate crimes re­leased by Fact Checker, 76 per­cent of vic­tims of hate crimes in In­dia over the past 10 years have been Mus­lims. Ninety per­cent of these at­tacks have oc­curred since Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi was voted into power in 2014.

By la­bel­ing Mus­lims as “beef eaters” and ex­pand­ing bans on the con­sump­tion of beef by putting in place new rules to cur­tail cow slaugh­ter that dis­ad­van­tage Mus­lim and lower- caste Hin­dus, the Hindu na­tion­al­ist BJP is en­cour­ag­ing young Hindu men to be­come so- called cow vig­i­lantes, who bran­dish their pa­tri­o­tism and faith by phys­i­cally at­tack­ing Mus­lims. Even a ru­mor that a Mus­lim fam­ily ate beef

The oblit­er­a­tion of In­dia’s Is­lamic his­tory and cul­ture is also re­flected in the rewrit­ing of school text­books in prov­inces ruled by the BJP. Mughal rulers such as Ak­bar and Shah Ja­han who em­bel­lished In­dia’s cul­tural legacy are be­ing rein­tro­duced in academia as de­bauched, vil­lain­ous in­vaders who robbed In­dia of its Hindu her­itage.

for din­ner, or a Mus­lim man fer­ried a cow to a slaugh­ter­house, can prove fa­tal in the hin­ter­lands to­day.

When Mus­lims are not be­ing lynched for bovine- re­lated rea­sons, they are at­tacked for mar­ry­ing Hindu girls, for sport­ing a beard, or for wear­ing a skull­cap or other sym­bols of re­li­gious iden­tity. They are be­rated on pop­u­lar, state- fa­vored news channels for be­ing un­grate­ful be­tray­ers and traitors who have no love for the na­tional flag.

At­tacks on In­dian Mus­lims are also a part of a wider cam­paign to un­der­mine the com­mu­nity and its rich his­tory. The Taj Ma­hal is an iconic 17th- cen­tury mau­soleum, built by an­other Mughal em­peror, Shah Ja­han, but it is fre­quently dis­par­aged in re­marks by Modi’s deputies. Yogi Adityanath, Modi’s choice as chief min­is­ter of In­dia’s largest state, Ut­tar Pradesh, has stated that the Taj Ma­hal isn’t suf­fi­ciently In­dian — code for be­long­ing to In­dia’s Is­lamic past. “For­eign dig­ni­taries vis­it­ing the coun­try used to be gifted repli­cas of the Taj Ma­hal and other minarets, which did not re­flect In­dian cul­ture,” he said at a rally in the state of Bi­har last year. “Now, [ Hindu] holy books such as the Bha­gavad Gita and the Ra­mayana are of­fered as gifts.” In the past six months, names of iconic cities and rail­way sta- tions such as Al­la­habad and Mughal Sarai named af­ter Mus­lim fig­ures have been changed to re­flect Hindu cul­ture.

The oblit­er­a­tion of In­dia’s Is­lamic his­tory and cul­ture is also re­flected in the rewrit­ing of school text­books in prov­inces ruled by the BJP. Mughal rulers such as Ak­bar and Shah Ja­han who em­bel­lished In­dia’s cul­tural legacy are be­ing rein­tro­duced in academia as de­bauched, vil­lain­ous in­vaders who robbed In­dia of its Hindu her­itage.

Com­mu­nal fault-lines are not new in the coun­try. When In­dia was par­ti­tioned in 1947 — lead­ing to the cre­ation of the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Pak­istan — tens of mil­lions of Mus­lims chose a sec­u­lar In­dia as their home­land; they were bet­ting on a more promis­ing fu­ture in a coun­try that en­shrined re­li­gious equal­ity into its con­sti­tu­tion. But Hindu na­tion­al­ists have long claimed a greater moral right over the na­tion and have ques­tioned the pa­tri­o­tism of In­dian Mus­lims. And the prej­u­dice is no longer just rhetor­i­cal. It has turned into vi­o­lent ha­tred that has spilled onto the streets of the coun­try.

The shift in In­dia’s at­ti­tude to­ward mi­nori­ties is be­ing met with re­sis­tance and re­sponse by writ­ers, artists and ac­tivists. Even Bol­ly­wood, which usu­ally keeps its dis­tance from pol­i­tics, is re­spond­ing in small ways. A film re­leased in Au­gust ti­tled “Mulk” ( Na­tion) tells the story of a Mus­lim fam­ily that is forced to prove its pa­tri­o­tism in the face of a prej­u­diced po­lice force and so­ci­ety. The film is a work of fic­tion but re­flects the agony of the 180 mil­lion Mus­lims in In­dia.

Ever since 1947, Mus­lims have con­sciously cho­sen to place their des­tiny in the hands of a sec­u­lar In­dia, be­liev­ing in the guid­ing prin­ci­ples of democ­racy. That faith is now be­ing tested ev­ery day. In 2014, when Modi was elected prime min­is­ter, Mus­lims knew they now had a leader who car­ried the stigma of rul­ing the state of Gu­jarat in 2002, when nearly 800 Mus­lims were mas­sa­cred in a planned at­tack by Hindu mobs. In its ver­dict on those ri­ots, the Supreme Court of In­dia de­scribed Modi’s gov­ern­ment at the time as “modern-day Neros” who looked else­where when “in­no­cent chil­dren and help­less women were burn­ing.”

In Modi’s In­dia to­day, as acts of com­mu­nal vi­o­lence in­crease, the worst fears of In­dian Mus­lims are com­ing true.

( Rana Ayyub is an In­dian jour­nal­ist and author of “Gu­jarat Files: Anatomy of a Coverup.”)

Cour­tesy the Wash­ing­ton Post

In­dian Mus­lims and ac­tivists take part in a protest on Thurs­day in Mum­bai to mark the 26th an­niver­sary of the demolition of the 16th-cen­tury Babri Mosque in Ay­o­d­hya. (In­dranil Mukher­jee/AFP/Getty Im­ages)

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