Rising tides of intolerance and Hindu extremism in India

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Taimur Khan |

In the words of Col. (R) Gurnam Singh, an ex-Indian Army officer and renowned security analyst, “there is a profoundly disquieting myth about Hinduism which has been put about by its adherents so often and so successfully that it is in danger of crystallizing into a truth – that of its essentially “pluralistic” and “tolerant” traditions.” The reality however presents a different account. What should be of major concern is that the Hindu intolerance has taken a very drastic and extremist turn over the years. It has not only evolved but has become more accepted and assertive within the society.

Prejudice against Muslims and Christians in Indian society is an open secret but what is often left untouched and unspoken of in the world is the dangers of Hindu extremist mindset, that refuses to accept anything different from its code. The rigidity of its beliefs is often exhibited in protests against “their very own” (Hindus) too, if they don’t comply.

In such sensitive circumstances, responsible and measured steps are needed to contain and eliminate extremist elements because with a history of mutual distrust even the smallest of misunderstanding could lead to a catastrophe.

Intolerance Towards the Film Industry

A very recent example is that of the protests in India against Ms. Priyanka Chopra, ex-Miss India and the highest-paid Indian actress on American television. On June 1, 2018, an episode of Quantico (a fictional drama series) titled “Blood of Romeo” was aired in which Ms. Priyanka’s character (Alex Parrish) thwarts a sabotage plan of terrorists ahead of a summit on Kashmir in New York. The episode portrays the terrorist as a Hindu wearing a “Rudrakhsha Mala” (a Hindu rosary) which ultimately leads to Ms. Priyanka finding the culprit.

Hardliner Hindu extremists launched scathing protests against the female actress calling her a “traitor”. She was even criticized for visiting “Rohingya Muslims” during her visit to Bangladesh as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. The outrage grew to a point where both Ms. Priyanka Chopra and ABC (American Broadcasting Corporation) had to apologize for “Blood of Romeo” fictionally featuring Hindus/Indians as terrorists.

Incidences similar to the one mentioned before are not unheard of in India. In 2017, a famous Tamil and Hindi actor Kamal Hassan also faced the wrath of Hindu extremists over his remarks regarding the past right-wing Hindu groups and their aggressive course of actions to confront situations. Furthermore, Hindu extremists also created storm over Indian movie “Padmavati” exhibiting extreme intolerance for past Muslim rulers of India like Alauddin Khilji. Other Muslim actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Amir Khan and Salman Khan usually come under continual furies of Hindu extremists.

What should be of major concern is that the Hindu intolerance has taken a very drastic and extremist turn over the years. It has not only evolved but has become more accepted and assertive within the society.

 

What kind of message does this send out regarding the Indian state that claims to be “secular” and ‘democratic’ but in fact is exhibits a constant chain of extremism? The superficiality and hollowness of the Indian society (mostly Hindus) is exposed by such episodes wherein the hardliners don’t even leave out their own kind, and brazenly label anyone who even so much as touches the topic of Pakistan or they endeavor to comment of Hindus or show some sympathy with the minorities in India as “traitors”. The case of famous Indian movie star Sanjay Dutt (as portrayed in the movie ‘Sanju’) is a glaring example of the prevalent extremist and intolerant mindset in India that is gaining momentum by every passing day.

Read more: Is secular fundamentalism the answer to religious extremism?

Is BJP also Involved?

What is even more alarming is that under the current Bhartia Janata Party (BJP) government no action is taken to address this issue rather we see the intolerance becoming a culture and for obvious reasons. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of the Hindu nationalist BJP, also belongs to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an extremist Hindu organisation is BJP’s parent entity and considered the world’s largest missionary organization.

Ironically while marking the 70th anniversary of India’s independence in August 2017, PM Modi proudly listed his nation’s accomplishments and stated that India “will not tolerate violence in the name of faith”. The reality however, is far from what Modi claims. In fact, Modi’s rise to power has gone hand in hand with growing Hindu intolerance. Intolerance not only pertaining to Islam and Christianity but anyone and everyone that does not adhere to Hindu-extremist hard-line stance. Hindutva is the driving force behind all RSS and the Hindu World Council campaigns. The ideology of Indian nationalists is determined to make India an exclusively “Hindu” state in all its meaning.

With the rise of BJP, comfort and freedom of action for affiliated Hindu extremist groups of the likes of Shiv Sena, Vishva Hindu Parsihad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal have also increased. Gandhi’s India has turned into “Modi’s fascist India” where intolerance for minorities and some saner elements have become a norm of the Indian Society.

The expulsion of a famous politician Jaswant Singh for writing the biography of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Arudhati Roy for raising her voice against Hindu extremism and atrocities against Kashmiris, hate campaigns, lynching of Muslims over eating beef, blackening the face of Muslim parliamentarians and inhuman treatment of minority groups are some of the many examples. Violence and denial of constitutional rights are the usual tools with which Indian minorities are preyed upon. Muslims face massacres, Christians are subjected to vandalism of Churches and Sikh communities are suppressed in the name of Khalistan till date in India.

The case of famous Indian movie star Sanjay Dutt (as portrayed in the movie ‘Sanju’) is a glaring example of the prevalent extremist and intolerant mindset in India that is gaining momentum by every passing day.

Despite all this why is the world, especially the Western world that claims to be the champion of freedom, liberty and humanity silent over the growing extremism and intolerance within the Indian Society? Why is the issue of Hindu radicalization never highlighted on the mainstream international media?

Read more: Hindutva media paints Dalits as “Pakistanis” as Caste violence increases

Hindu Extremism and Regional Implications

India has been a steady strategic and economic partner of the United States (US) for more than a decade now and unsurprisingly yet, no word has been uttered to persuade the Indian government into taking practical steps to curb Hindu extremism. Undoubtedly, this form of intolerance should be given the same amount of attention and should be subjected to the same degree of condemnation as other terrorist groups in the world.

In the contemporary world we automatically link terrorism to Islam and groups that claim to be followers of Islam, without taking into account the literal definition of the term or waiting for facts to come out. The actions of Hindu extremists are just as bad as the actions of terrorist organizations such as ISIS, or even worse if you keep the volatility and dynamics of the region in perspective.

Violence and denial of constitutional rights are the usual tools with which Indian minorities are preyed upon. Muslims face massacres, Christians are subjected to vandalism of Churches and Sikh communities are suppressed in the name of Khalistan till date in India.

India, in fact, is facing a much bigger problem as compared to Pakistan. The only difference is that the international community and even the media leaves no stone unturned when it comes to maligning Pakistan with total disregard towards the efforts and sacrifices the Pakistani state and people have rendered in the global war against terrorism. Pakistan has done more against terrorism in the past 17 years than all the US, NATO and ISAF forces combined. On the other hand, not only in a way has the Modi government legitimized extremist actions in India but also continues to encourage them.

Read more: Are Hindu women being radicalized by RSS?

Pakistan and India share a hostile history. In such sensitive circumstances, responsible and measured steps are needed to contain and eliminate extremist elements because with a history of mutual distrust even the smallest of misunderstanding could lead to a catastrophe

It is high time that this issue is taken seriously and treated as a potential threat to both the region and the world if not addressed. It is the responsibility of regional and extra-regional powers to persuade and if need be coerce India to take concrete and practical steps to contain the surge of Hindu extremism in Indian society. India must commit to taking tangible measures to rein in Hindu fanaticism and intolerance.

Furthermore, the world should also take notice of the human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir after continual calls from the UN for an inquiry. It should be understood that all kind of support to India, without holding it accountable for the atrocities it is committing against its people the people of Kashmir and without resolving the Kashmir issue will be inadvertent support for Hindu extremism. The international community should end its slumber and wake up to human rights violations and oppression carried out by India. Turning a blind eye towards Indian atrocities due to vested interests might have timely benefit but it will have costly consequences for humanity.

Mr. Muhammad Taimur Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from  National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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