In the diverse multi-religious and multicultural nation of India, over 204 million Muslims live in panic and fear due to the Islamophobic hate crimes committed by the followers of the extremist Indian right wing, who see Muslims as economic hardship. In addition to blaming them for crime, violence, and Islamic radicalism.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the ruling political party of the Republic of India since 2014. This always prompted a wide-ranging debate regarding Hindutva, the religiously rooted nationalist ideology of the right wing.
Originally, Hindutva emerged as a response to British colonization, but now it evolved into a pseudo-nationalism that is constructed on otherization and the superiorization of Hindus as the archetypal Indian citizens to other identities in India.
For the purpose of establishing a state dominated by Hindus, Hindutva targets all minority groups in India, including Dalits, liberals, Christians, and feminists. However, Muslims bear the biggest brunt of this hostility as they represent 15% of the Indian population, second only to the greater 80% of Hindus. Additionally, Hindutva views Islam and Muslims as foreign, violent, and hostile to Hindus as well.
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The BJP has always instilled a deep sense of Hindu victimhood in Hindus, all while stoking the otherization of Muslims through fake news, hate speech, reopening old religious wounds, manipulating a servile media, suppressing progressive voices, and empowering Hindu supremacist vigilante groups.
Islamophobic Governmental Speech and Actions
Islamophobia has always been present in India’s far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches. In December 2021, he made connections between Muslim figures from India’s distant history and current-day “terrorism and religious extremism” in two of his public speeches, implying that India’s Muslims should be held responsible and punished for the alleged crimes committed by their “ancestors”.
Islamophobia is not only present in his speeches, but also his actions. At the approval of the Prime Minister, the Citizenship Amendment Act Bill was passed in the Indian parliament back in 2019. The CAA Bill enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants including Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian or Parsi immigrants, but specifically excludes Muslims, which in itself sets a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.
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This plain systematic discrimation was justified by Modi’s government by arguing that they are only attempting to help non-Muslims who experience religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, by allowing them to stay in India, and that Muslims are the predominant population in those countries.
On that matter, the Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, declared back then that, “Not one refugee will have to leave. And we will not allow even one infiltrator to stay back.” Modi’s closest aide did not try to hide nor imply the Islamophobia in his declaration, as he so blatantly demonized Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers by calling them “infiltrators”.
On another occasion for hostile Islamophobic speech by politicians in power, Anil Bhanot, the Hindu Council UK director who refers to himself as “Hindutva”, called Islam a ‘violent religion,’ described Muslims as ‘Shaitans’, and called Islamophobia ‘a weapon of good able human beings’ on his Twitter account. And while the Secretary General of the Council condemned Bhanot’s social media posts and assured that it does not represent their office, no further actions seem to have been taken against Bhanot who remains a director and trustee.
In a similar Islamophobic manner, at a conference in India back in January, Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party, called on her supporters to annihilate Muslims and “protect” the country.
Her exact words were, “If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill 2 million (Muslims), then we will win … protect India, and make it a Hindu nation.”
Such clear dehumanization of Muslims and incitement of violence against them was not met by any international rage.
Additionally, back in December 2021, Hindu monk Yati Narsinghanand Giri and several other Hindutva supremacists had called for violence against Muslims at a religious conclave held in the city from Dec 17 to 19. had called upon Hindus to pick up weapons, asserting that the “economic boycott” of Muslims will not work.
He was arrested on January 15th, and was granted bail on February 7th.
The Banning of Hijab in Schools
One of the most recent discriminatory actions against Muslims is the Karnataka High Court banning Hijabi girls from attending classes on the grounds that the hijab was not part of the school uniform. An article on the matter was published on our site, you can read it here.
Many heartbreaking scenes from Karnataka of girls pleading at the gates of schools, as they are turned away and denied dignity and education because of their headscarves are going viral on the internet, including this video.
Ban on Muslim Traders
The mistreatment of Muslims in Karnataka does not stop there. Following the hijab verdict in the state, temple administrations imposed a new law that stipulates that Muslim traders and vendors cannot pitch their stalls at the annual fair of Bappanadu Durgaparameshwari Temple near Mangaluru district. Posters barring Muslims –or non-Hindus– are now popped up in various temples across Karnataka.
Also Read: Islam in India: Then and Now!
Multiple political figures have stood up against this discriminatory law, including the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee’s spokesperson, Lakshmana, who claimed that the global reputation of Karnataka is at an all-time low currently due to its Islamophobic actions.
He commented further on the issue and said, “The very development of prohibiting Muslim traders at Hindu festivals and fairs has brought a shame to Karnataka at the global level. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus are working at Islam countries. If the Muslims boycott Hindus, lakhs of people will lose jobs. Who will give jobs to them?”
The Impact of the Kashmir Files
The Hindu ultra nationalist BJP-supported movie, the Kashmir files which talks about the exodus of Hindus – the Pandits – from India administered Kashmir during the early 1990s stands guilty to fuel the decades-long feud between Hindus and Muslims.
The movie is accused of stoking Islamophobic/Hindutva propaganda through historical revisionism, inexact storytelling, and weaponization of hatred against Kashmiri Muslims all with the purpose of legitimizing their violence.
Putting aside the ongoing debate of whether the movie is accurate or not, the most concerning outcome is the hostile response of the Hindu extremists who are currently encouraging violence against Muslims. This video of a Hindu extremist monk spouting hatred against Muslims and urging Hindus to pick up weapons in a cinema theatre showing the aforementioned movie speaks the loudest about the movie’s harmful, intended impact.
Hate Crimes Committed Against Muslims
All the pointed-above hate speeches were a mere call-to-action sort of invocation to Hindus to commit hate crimes on Muslims, including:
- Genocide Watch began warning of genocide in India in 2002, when a three-day violent inter-communal religious riot tore through Gujarat and resulted in the killing of more than 1,000 Muslims.
- In 2020, Fourteen Delhi mosques were burnt by Hindutva vigilantes in three days.
- In the first half of 2019, Amnesty International recorded 37 attacks that were directed towards Muslims.
Aakar Patel, the former head of Amnesty International India commented on the issue and stated that “The pattern of hate crimes committed against Muslims with seeming impunity – many of them in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power – is deeply worrying. Unfortunately, both the Prime Minister and various Chief Ministers have done little to show that they disapprove of this violence.”
- In November, Hindu hardliners set fire to the home of a Muslim former foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, who had compared the kind of Hindu nationalism that has flourished under Modi with “extremist groups” such as ISIL (ISIS).
- on Dec 31, 2021, Indian Express, one of the leading newspapers of India, carried an Islamophobic ad on their front page.
- On January 1, photographs of more than 100 Muslim women appeared on an app called Bulli Bai, with the claim that they were “for sale as maids”. Prominent journalists, actresses and activists were among those who were targeted.
- Following The Kashmir Files movie, a Kashmiri man was denied accommodation at Delhi Hotel, despite providing ID and other documents.
Experts have warned that this religion-tied community violence could lead to a rampant genocide throughout India. Yet, many influential and “democratic” nations that display themselves as international protectors of human rights are refraining from condemning crimes against religious minorities in India and are opting instead to protect their own interests.
What Does Shraddha Walker’s Murder Mean for Love in India?
Earlier this month, India was shocked by the news of the murder of 28-year-old Shraddha Walker by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawalla. Aftab had killed Shraddha merely three days after they moved into their new home in Delhi in May this year. Aftab had cut the body of Shraddha into 35 pieces and stored them in a fridge. He was gradually disposing of the body parts in a nearby forest area.
Interfaith Couple and Sensational Murder Trial
After the news of Shraddha’s murder broke in mid-November following the arrest of Aftab Poonawalla, it became a sensational murder trial. The murder was debated on prime-time debates on TV.
While the murder was chilling and one could expect it to cause a sensation, it became a sensational murder trial for very wrong reasons in India. The fact that Shraddha and Aftab were an interfaith couple made it a sensational murder.
Even though Aftab has claimed that he killed Shraddha in a fit of rage while they were fighting, the police are yet to establish the motive for the murder. The media trial, however, has given a religious colour to the murder. Some people, including those on TV debates, have dressed the murder in the language of religion.
The religious colour given to the Shraddha murder and the transcending of the murder beyond its context is a result of the Love Jihad discourse adopted by the ruling right-wing party BJP. BJP used Loved Jihad as an electoral issue in many state elections.
At present, eleven states where BJP is in power have passed legislation against Love Jihad. The argument by the Hindu nationalists is that Muslim men intentionally fall in love with Hindu women and then these men force the women to convert from Hinduism to Islam.
There are also attempts to demonize Muslims after the murder of Shraddha. A man from the UP state recently went on TV to support the actions of Aftab. He claimed to be a Muslim, named Rashid Khan and justified the cutting of Shraddha into 35 pieces.
When the police arrested the said man, it was found that he is a Hindu, named Vikas Gupta.
Vikas Gupta’s statement went viral on social media and Muslims were called out and demonized for his statement.
A Setback to the Freedom to Love in India?
Shraddha’s sensational murder trial has raised questions about love in India. It will hurt the hard-won right of freedom to love.
There are two aspects to be considered. First is the freedom of young people to love or live in live-in relationships. Since the news of the murder reached almost every home in India, it will scare people from getting into live-in relationships. Further, society will also be suspicious of these relationships. Live-in couples already face difficulty in negotiating the conservative society in India and the case will only exacerbate it. For instance, live-in couples in India find it difficult to find a house or rented accommodation. Aftab and Shraddha also lived in rented accommodation. More people than ever before will now hesitate to rent their accommodations to live-in couples.
Second, as discussed above Shraddha’s murder will make it worse for interfaith couples to negotiate everyday life in India. Even though India was never a safe place for interfaith couples, the case is going to make society hostile to interfaith love. Those who were already against interfaith love will use this case to further cement their position on Love Jihad.
Further, society in general parents of young people in particular will turn hostile against love.
A Difficult Task Ahead
The sensational murder trial and the media trial of Shraddha’s murder by Aftab have raised questions about love in India. Further, the discourse of Love Jihad is also back. Hindu nationalists will make sure that the case is exploited to its full to make a case for Love Jihad.
For those in India, who want to preserve the hard-won right of freedom to love, the task ahead is very difficult. Even though the case has already become sensational, they must make sure that it is restricted to its immediate context. If the case transcends its immediate context, hate will win against love. Love must triumph!
Kashmiri Journalists Caught in the Battle of Narratives
A proscribed militant outfit in Kashmir recently made anonymous online threats to over a dozen journalists belonging to several media organizations. The outfit published the threat on a website and people circulated it on social media. The Kashmiri journalists were accused of being “collaborators”. Five of the journalists who were threatened have already resigned.
Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir Police registered a case under the anti-terrorist law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and launched an investigation. On November 19, police raids were underway at the residences of journalists Gowhar Geelani, Qazi Shibli, Rashid Maqbool, Khalid Gul, Waseem Raja, Sajad Kralyari & militant Momin Gulzar, Mukhtar Baba and advocate Abu Adil Pandit.
The police alleged that The Resistance Front (TRF), which is an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), was behind the threat to journalists. The security agencies further found that journalist Mukhtar Baba was the mastermind behind putting out the list of journos accusing them of being informers for security forces. Baba, who is currently based in Turkey, is has worked as a journalist in Kashmir. He is familiar with the media environment in Kashmir. The police also revealed that Baba is very close to Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The police requested media houses “not to fall for sensationalism in discussing names of victims in reporting and also to behave responsibly and not endanger the safety and security of their fellow journalists”.
Battle of Narratives
The ongoing battle of narratives in Kashmir between pro-India and anti-India has created a false and dangerous binary in Kashmir. Journalists, who work for various media houses and newspapers in Kashmir, increasingly face themselves choosing sides between anti-India and pro-India narratives. Choosing sides has led journalists into a trap. If they report and support the pro-India narrative, militant groups accuse them of being collaborators. If they report anti-India narrative, the Indian security agencies accuse them of supporting terrorism in the region. In this vicious cycle, many journalists have lost their lives, and many are languishing in jails.
Kashmiri Journalists Face Killings and Jail
The same Let killedpProminent Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari in 2018 in Srinagar. The police alleged that Sheikh Sajad alias Sajjad Gul was responsible for his killing.
In February this year, the police booked and arrested Fahad Shah, the Editor-in-chief of the online news magazine, ‘The Kashmir Walla’, under anti-terrorism law and sedition for his reporting on Kashmir. He continues to be in jail. His online magazine faces several cases for reporting controversial news. The security agencies have alleged that Fahad was propagating fake news through his portal.
In August 2018, the police arrested Aasif Sultan, an assistant editor of the magazine Kashmir Narrator, under the anti-terror law. The police accused him of “harbouring known militants”.
There are several other stories of Kashmiri journalists being harassed by militants and police alike. While militants make death threats to journalists, the security agencies in Kashmir arrest and intimidate the journalists. There are several cases where chilling details of threat and intimidation of journalists by police have emerged.
In October this year, Indian authorities prevented Pulitzer-winning Kashmiri journalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo from travelling to the US. Mattoo, a freelance photojournalist, was part of a Reuters team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. She was flying to the US to receive the award. Earlier in July this year, Indian authorities prevented Mattoo from travelling to Paris.
This was not the first time that Indian authorities prevented a Kashmiri journalist from flying abroad. Several other journalists were prohibited from flying.
Also Read: India Gags-up Media in Kashmir
Journalists in Dilemma
The threats by the militants and the harassment by the Indian agencies have put Kashmiri journalists in dilemma. They do not know when their reporting will invoke the wrath of Indian agencies or the militants. It is a huge risk to invoke the wrath of any one of them.
As a result, political reporting in Kashmir has become very difficult. Various news agencies, in order to evade the binary, do not cover political issues. They just restrict their reporting highlighting societal issues.
Hence, in this battle of narratives, objective political reporting has become the real victim.
Also Read: The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
The Forgotten Jammu Massacre
In November 1947, thousands of Muslims were murdered in Jammu by paramilitaries under the command of Maharaja Hari Singh’s army, the Hindu Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. Although the precise number of victims in the killings that lasted for two months is unknown, estimates range from 20,000 to 237,000. Nearly half a million Muslims were compelled to flee across the border into the recently formed country of Pakistan. These Muslims had to settle in the part of Kashmir that is under Pakistan’s administration. The massacre of Muslims in Jammu and the forced migration of others set off a chain of events that included a war between India and Pakistan, two newly independent countries. These incidents also gave rise to the Kashmir issue. The massacres occurred as part of a British-designed strategy to divide the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, as millions of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs crossed the border from one side to the other.
An Orchestrated Massacre
Before the two-decade-long massacre against Jammu’s Muslim majority really began, The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders from Amritsar met in secret with the Maharaja and his officials. They chose Poonch as the beginning place for the massacre of Muslims because of its record for fierce resistance. A two decade long and horrifying anti-Muslim pogrom began with the murder of a herdsman in the Panj Peer shrine and a Muslim labourer in the centre of Jammu city in the first week of September. Extremist Hindus and Sikhs committed the murders with the help and complicity of the Maharaja Hari Singh-led armies of the Dogra State. The RSS leaders and workers were complicit in organising and carrying out the atrocities.
Idrees Kanth, a fellow at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam who studied the history of Kashmir in the 1940s, told Al Jazeera that the immediate impact (of partition) was seen in Jammu. “The Muslim subjects from different parts of Jammu province were forcibly displaced by the Dogra Army in a programme of expulsion and murder carried out over three weeks between October-November 1947,”.
The Dogra Army personnel started evicting Muslim peasants from Jammu province in the middle of October. The majority of the refugees were housed in refugee camps in the districts of Sialkot, Jhelum, Gujrat, and Rawalpindi after being directed on foot toward West Punjab, which would eventually become a part of Pakistan.
On November 5, Kanth claimed about the Dogra Army forces’ planned evacuation of Muslims that “Instead of sending them to Sialkot, as they had been promised, the trucks drove them to wooded hills of Rajouri districts of Jammu, where they were executed.”
After the deaths and expulsion, the Muslims, who made up more than 60% of the population in the Jammu region, became a minority. According to a story from The Times, London, dated August 10, 1948: “2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated – unless they escaped to Pakistan along the border – by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to India.”.
According to historians, the executions carried out by the Sikh and Hindu ruler’s armies were part of a “state sponsored genocide” to alter Jammu’s demographics, which had a predominately Muslim population.
Reports mention that Muslims who earlier were the majority (61 percent) in the Jammu region became a minority as a result of the Jammu massacre and subsequent migration.
According to PG Rasool, the author of a book The Historical Reality of Kashmir Dispute “The massacre of more than two lakh (two hundred thousands) Muslims was state-sponsored and state supported. The forces from Patiala Punjab were called in, RSS was brought to communalise the whole scenario and kill Muslims.”
Covering up of the Jammu Massacre
While it is unknown how many people were killed during the two-month-long killing spree, Horace Alexander’s report from The Spectator on January 16, 1948, is frequently cited. Alexander claimed that 200,000 people had died and that nearly 500,000 people had been displaced across the border into the recently formed country of Pakistan and the region of Kashmir that it controls.
India has ever since tried to free itself from the accountability of the past. The Jammu massacre has not only been left out of J&K’s historical narratives by the Indian state, but it has also been openly denied in its entirety.
Khurram Parvez, a noted human rights defender in Kashmir, told Al Jazeera that the ongoing conflict in Kashmir has its roots in 1947 massacre. “It is deliberately forgotten. Actually, the violence of that massacre in 1947 continues. Those who were forced to migrate to Pakistan have never been allowed to return,” he said.
Also Read: The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
What Does the Jammu Massacre mean for Kashmir today?
The Jammu massacre gave India the opportunity to rewrite history, therefore relieving the Indian government from owning up to any responsibility for the atrocity. The Indian government is attempting to replicate this pattern in the Kashmir valley by systematically killing and exterminating Muslims and then covering it up. As more and more Indians obtain Kashmiri citizenship and are granted the ability to vote in state elections, this provides the necessary motive and encouragement for non-Kashmiris to relocate to Kashmir. While the right-wing BJP government has been milking the targeted killings of Kashmiri pandits in Kashmir. The communal violence against Muslims and the Jammu Massacre is the least talked about and written about in the history of the region.
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