With a population of about 1.4 billion of which about 80% of Indians are Hindus, 14% Muslim and 2% Christian, 4% follow other religions. Until the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party assumed power India was among countries with a perception of a high level of tolerance, particularly religious tolerance. Historically India loves to tout itself as a secular state, barely under the surface this is drastically different.
The contradiction between the theory and practice in India over the recognition of different religions is what led to the creation of Pakistan. With Narendra Damodardas Modi elected Prime Minister (PM) in 2014 and then again in 2019, the carefully built camouflage came off. He has undertaken many measures that hitherto were controversial, this has made it quite apparent that India was always an intolerant nation under a veneer of tolerance.
The biggest advocate of Hindu-Muslim amity as a member of the Indian Congress Party, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah saw through this subterfuge, quit the Congress and joined the Indian Muslim League.
PM Modi has ensured that India has been exposed to the world what it was all along, a Hindu fundamentalist country. Its secular democratic Constitution is the Indian face to the world as a nation where democracy has tolerance as a supreme principle. India is, in fact, an intolerant country, by every count of race, caste, culture, region and religion. Just look at the manner the Indian society behaves towards the Dalits, also known as ‘Untouchables’, members of the lowest social group within the despicable Hindu caste system.
The political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been complicit in violent acts, inciting riots against minorities and political rivals. The singular aim of the RSS is to unite Hindus and promote Hindu superiority, it draws its inspiration from the Nazi theory of racial superiority by considering Hindus to be the purest race.
Born to a family of grocers, Narendra Modi was virtually raised by the RSS and spent his childhood there. A life-long RSS member, Modi rose through its ranks to become the Chief Minister (CM) of Gujarat in 2001. One year after he assumed charge riots broke out in which thousands of Muslims were killed in what became known as the Gujarat carnage, the CM did nothing to stop the massacre. In 2005 recognizing his culpability in a severe rebuke by the United States govt, its Consular Division denied him a diplomatic visa holding him directly responsible for communal riots.
By dividing alleged migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, the bill “explicitly and blatantly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long-standing, secular constitutional ethos
Coincidentally his is the 71st Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russians. After Modi became the PM of the world’s most populous country, the influence of the RSS on the Indian polity has become stronger. Muslims were mob lynched frequently, the slaughter of cows has been de-facto banned in many Indian states while violence in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)has reached new heights. After winning a second term as PM, Modi revoked Article 370 in Kashmir, stripping the valley of its special status and violating UN resolutions.
The passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on Dec 11 last year give rise to an extreme controversy that has spawned large scale protests across India by Muslims and Hindus and elsewhere across the globe. The CAA has been criticized as specifically discriminating against Muslims, giving rise to fears that the bill is part of a BJP agenda to marginalise Muslims.
Opponents say the bill is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in India’s Constitution and that faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship. Many legal experts contend that by dividing alleged migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, the bill “explicitly and blatantly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long-standing, secular constitutional ethos”.
To quote from my article of June 15, 2015 “A Litany of Outright Lies” “More than 30 writers of consequence returned their awards in protest in October 2015 against growing intolerance in India. Actions by Hindu nationalist organisations are either ignored by the BJP government by staying silent, or the Hindu extremists are absolved of criminal charges. A former special public prosecutor in the Malegaon blasts case of 2006, Rohini Salian, said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told her in June 2015 to “go soft” on the accused, mainly Hindutva extremists. Modi’s BJP government is rightly accused of patronising “Hindutva” terror campaign to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism dubbed as “gharwapsi” (homecoming).
Modi’s mention of Gandhi and his non-violence in Washington DC was sheer hypocrisy since he was a member of RSS the extremist Hindu organisation whose Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi in 1948 because of his “favouring” Indian Muslims during partition. Dr Khurram Iqbal, Centre of Excellence to Counter Extremism, NDU says Islamist militancy in the current world is being examined with a magnifying glass while other sorts of extremism such as Saffron terrorism are being downplayed. “Like Taliban madrassas where violent ideologies are taught, RSS madrassas in India are preaching hate and intolerance to its more than 5-6 million members.”
India’s intolerance is not only hurting India from within but also has the potential of turning into a powder keg as the space of freedom of religion and freedom of speech visibly shrinks
India’s intolerance is aptly mirrored in the estimated 36 armed insurgencies raging across the country, this reflects the acute sense of alienation of the people involved and sustained mainly by the govt’s failure to attend to their grievances and human rights violations by the govt. Insurgencies have taken root because of frustrations of the people, mainly in political, socio-economic or religious domains.
While many of the insurgencies are of ethnic origin, the main Naxalite movement covering 17 states is a revolt against the hated caste system and the domains of the minority Brahmin imposed on the majority. With its lack of meaningful action to benefit its minorities, India has turned a huge chunk of its population against the country who are asking for freedom.
By taking such extreme and controversial actions Modi is certainly not doing any favours for India, these would most certainly help Pakistan as it exposes India for the hypocrisy of its policies. Modi is doing all the things that Pakistan’s ISI would perhaps dream of doing to India, creating such a situation where almost the entire world would voice strong concern, if not an outright condemnation of the oppression by the Indian govt.
The 1947 partition of India is being certainly perceived in a favourable light, particularly by naysayers, the millions of Muslims who opted for a Muslim state of their own and migrated to Pakistan were perhaps so clairvoyant that they could foresee the terrible situation that would befall Muslims in India after more than 70 years. India’s intolerance is not only hurting India from within but also has the potential of turning into a powder keg as the space of freedom of religion and freedom of speech visibly shrinks. The ground is ripe for waves of ethnic riots.
In a no holds barred piece titled “Intolerant India” The Economist wrote bluntly, “Mr Modi may imagine he can keep communal tensions under control, ramping them up and tamping them down as his political fortunes demand. But even if he is only cynically exploiting religious bigotry, many in the Hindu nationalist rank-and-file are true believers. They are not easily restrained, as the slaughter in Gujarat showed.
With his warlike rhetoric about Pakistan, his head-cracking in Kashmir and his flagrantly biased approach to citizenship, the prime minister has raised the zealots’ expectations. He may not want to take things too far-he has a country to govern-but they will have no such compunction” Unquote.
A 2017 Pew Research Centre analysis of most populous countries ranked India as among the worst in the world for religious intolerance. In the country of 1.3 billion, the incidence of hostility related to religion trailed only Syria, Nigeria and Iraq, all places where sectarian violence is widespread. Pew examines cases that involved hate crimes, mob violence, communal violence, religion-related terror, the use of force to prevent religious practices, the harassment of women for not conforming to religious dress codes, and violence over conversion or proselytizing.
Religious intolerance or intolerance towards another’s religious beliefs or practices is an affliction for India since the dawn of the 20th century, and more so since the riots of Partition. India is clearly an intolerant country on the lines of race, caste, culture, region and religion. Instances of violence and rioting have increased, particularly against Muslims, but with Modi taking over, with Hindutva in power, atrocities have multiplied many times over. What Modi fails to realize is that tolerance is important for not only within India but also to his country’s considerable power abroad.
Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is a Pakistani defence analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The article was first published in Daily Times and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.