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Monday, July 15, 2024

Religious fanaticism: a nail in the coffin of India’s secular status

The author discusses how religious fanaticism has taken a toll on India’s international image. The once-secular state is now notorious for heinous acts against minorities and severe human rights violations.

A few days ago, Wasim Rizvi — former Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board Chairman— faced severe backlash for filing PIL in the Supreme Court to remove 26 verses from the Holy Quran alleging that they teach “violence”.

Spreading hate and promoting enmity against the Muslim minority is nothing new for Rizvi. Previously, he has been in hot waters for his stance on “triple talaq” and “Ayodhya dispute”. Also, back in 2018, he had written to CM Adityanath and PM Narendra Modi to step in and close Madrassas as according to him, “They had become a business for Mullahs, producing terrorists instead of guaranteeing jobs for Muslims”.

Unfortunately, this time he’s being backed by members of the BJP government and few jingoistic celebrities like Kangana Ranaut who has pledged her allegiance to him in a tweet using the hashtag, “Main Wasim Rizvi ke saath houn (I’m with Wasim Rizvi)”. The original tweet was deleted but the actress still claimed her support for Wasim Rizvi.


Following his act, several protests erupted across several states — from Kargil to Delhi— reproaching him and demanding his arrest. Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad rebuked Rizvi in these words, “[Wasim] Rizvi deliberately insulted Quran to get famous. We don’t want any [part] of the religious book to be altered or disrespected like this. We want the strictest action against him”.

Read more: ‘Anti-Muslim’ law causes countrywide protests in India

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has also denounced Rizvi for this act and issued him a notice on the directions of Vice-Chairman Atif Rasheed who condemned that his [Wasim] Rizvi’s remarks were “highly provocative, objectionable and malicious, biased for maintenance of peace and harmony, with intent to outrage the religious feelings of a particular minority and an insult to a particular religion.”

Impact of religious fanaticism on India

Prevailing Hindutva ideology has sieged Indian secularism. Since the rise of the BJP government, religious freedom in India is nowhere to be seen. Religious dogmatism is now dominating Indian politics, and downtrodden religious minorities are bearing the major brunt of BJP’s exclusionary policies.

These chauvinistic policies began with the enactment of the CAA bill — granting Indian ‘citizenship’ to millions of illegal immigrants except the ‘Muslims’— and from there it went downhill.

Read more: India’s draconian Citizenship Law: Sinister move to create Hindu Rashtraya

This religious fanaticism has also taken a toll on India’s international image. The once-celebrated secular nation is now notorious for its discrimination. Keeping the track of Indian policies marred with prejudice, Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report has downgraded India’s status from a ‘Free country’ to ‘Partly Free’ by accrediting it a score of 67/100 which is a massive downgrade from 71/100 in 2019.

The report blatantly stated the causes of this demotion as, “rising violence and discriminatory politics against Muslim population and crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, civil society groups and protestors.”

The role played by the Indian media platforms in this fiasco is also a reprehensible one. Defending every buffoonery of the Modi government seems to be its priority. The fact that a large number of media channels are now facing the music-being infamously called “Godi Media” by the general public- speaks volume about the bigotry of these channels.

Through heinously propagating false agendas these channels have validated journalist Ravish Kumar’s criticism that, “ Indian media is enemy of the poor, anti-science and worships falsehood.”

Read more: Watchdog voices deep concern about aggressive, biased reporting by Indian media

What needs to be done?

The Islamophobia Zeitgeist in India enabled by the government will have dire consequences. These exclusionary policies have put India on the brink of civil war. It is very likely that minorities fed up with the Modi government will take up arms against it, leading to riots and bloodshed.

The government of India needs to know that it can’t afford another despicable incident like the ‘Gujrat Riots’. It must put its encouragement of “Vigilantism” to an end. Its pro-mobocracy approach is undermining the essence of democracy.

Read more: Delhi Carnage is episode 2 of Gujrat Riots, writes cornered Delhi Muslim

However, with dim-wits in the position of power, it is very unlikely that the Modi government is going to pay any heed to this matter.

The responsibility to protect the religious freedom of minorities now lies with the Supreme Court of India. Reversal of its remorseful precedents is long due. It must take bold steps to curb down the pervasive Islamophobia and religious fanaticism.

Entertaining absurd petitions is not only going to escalate its already derailing democracy but it will put a nail in the coffin of India’s secular status. It has to choose whether it wants an India of Gandhi or an India of Nathuram Godsay.

Read more: Where is secular India headed?

The author is a Law student at LUMS and can be reached at:usamabinzafar44@gmail.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.