Researchers, activists, and former top bureaucrats have expressed concern at the growing wave of Islamophobia in India, which is home to 10.9% of the world's Muslim population.
According to Pew Research Center, India hosts 213 million Muslims, which make up 15.5% of its 1.38 billion population.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Asim Ali, a political researcher at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), a New Delhi-based think tank, said that the rise in anti-Muslim mobilization, hate speeches, communal agitations, mob violence, is an outcome of a facilitative atmosphere created by the ruling Hindu rightist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“There is a huge market for anti-Muslim mobilization, and local entrepreneurs of bigotry – the sadhus and sadhvis (holy Hindu men and women), who have cropped up all over the place, are in a sense exploiting this market,” he said.
He said that it was not a question of silence by the ruling class but at times its complicity in this anti-Muslim mobilization by Hindu extremist groups.
Navaid Hamid, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella organization of political and social Muslim organizations, told Anadolu Agency the situation for the minorities is alarming.
Alleging that minorities including Muslims and Christians are being made second-class citizens, he said the trend is bringing disrepute to the country.
"The future of this country under this regime is at risk concerning social fabric. We need a public struggle of all citizens, to educate the people about the upcoming dangers which will put this country into chaos and conflict," he said.
Recently a group of 108 former top bureaucrats sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to stop the anti-Muslim mobilization.
“The escalation of hate violence against the minority communities, particularly Muslims, in the last few years and months across several states – Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, all states where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power, barring Delhi (where the union government controls the police) – has acquired a frightening new dimension,” said the letter signed by these former top officials.
‘Indian brand of Islamophobia is local’
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also cautioned against the rising hate politics in the country.
"India can be the fulcrum of this new global order, as a peaceful democracy with economic prosperity. But this requires India to first stem the raging communal divisions within," said Singh.
Senior Muslim leader and former Chief of Delhi Minorities Commission Zafar Ul Islam Khan told Anadolu Agency that the Indian brand of “Islamophobia” is local though it is feeding on the western variant.
“The Indian brand was born as a result of the falsification of Indian history following the divide-and-rule policy of the British in the wake of the 1857 Revolution. Over the years, this Indian brand became quite strong and got a new lease of life after the American war on Islam in the wake of 9/11,” he said.
He added that every attempt is made to marginalize and criminalize Muslims in every walk of life.
"All this is taking place with its tacit approval and will continue at least until the next general elections in May 2024. Thereafter, it may subside for a little while only to be reactivated again before fresh state elections,” said Khan.
Recently, several provinces witnessed communal violence during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami. In recent weeks, in the southern state of Karnataka, the hijab or headscarf was banned in schools and colleges, in a setback to Muslim students who were demanding the right to wear the headscarf in educational institutions.
Now right-wing groups have campaigns like the boycott of Muslim traders from fairs near Hindu temples and a push to ban halal meat.
In the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, the local administration demolished the houses of Muslims and blamed them for the violence that broke out in the Khargone area during the Hindu festival. While the state’s home minister, Narottam Mishra, denies that one-sided action has been taken, activists say the accused were punished without proving their guilt in a court of law.
Government denies allegations
Supreme Court lawyer Ehtesham Hashmi said the law does not give the government any authority to raze houses without any notice.
Rejecting the government's argument that they were acting against encroachments, he said that the government has shut its eyes to large-scale encroachments everywhere and was targeting a particular community.
Indian Minorities Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, denied the allegations that minorities were living in fear.
"There is no fear among the minorities in India. The religious, social, educational, and constitutional rights of minorities are safe in India," he told media recently.
"In India, minorities have an equal share in the development of the country and in the empowerment that is taking place. Economically and educationally all communities have equal opportunities and also have an equal share in progress and prosperity in India,” he added.
Iqbal Singh Lalpura, head of the government-controlled National Commission for Minorities, said all efforts are being made to ensure that minorities feel secure in the country.
"There is still work that needs to be done. If we compare with other countries, there are not many hate crimes here," said Singh, adding that sentiments of the Muslim community are being exploited by "vested interests for the sake of political interests.”/aa