Date: 9 Rajab 1444   Monday 30 January 2023

  • Last Update: Sunday 29 January 2023، 13:43:41.

What the targeting of Muslim women really means | OPINION

14:14 03 January 2022 Author :  

The targeting of Muslim women is not just a one-off thing; it is well ideated and deliberated. This is not just an attack on Muslim women alone; it’s an attack on a religious identity, a normalisation of the ‘othering’ and dehumanisation of Muslims.

Saira Shah Halim

Muslim women are being auctioned online for the second time in the past one year in a new avatar of Bulli Bai.

Let’s just say it’s not the best time to be a Muslim in India. Particularly a vocal, politically active Muslim woman.

In the run-up to year 2022, Indian Muslims witnessed calls for genocide of the community. No action. Then Muslim women are being auctioned online for the second time in the past one year in a new avatar of Bulli Bai. No action yet.

It is said that morning shows the day. 2022 should have been a year of peace and amity, yet calls for genocides for minorities are happening right under the nose of the establishment.

There leaves no shadow of doubt in anyone’s mind that a sinister holocaust is brewing in India; you feel it in the bones.

The targeting of Muslim women is not just a one-off thing; it is well ideated and deliberated. This is not just an attack on Muslim women alone; it’s an attack on a religious identity, a normalisation of the ‘othering’ and dehumanisation of Muslims.

The whole generalisation during the abolition of ‘Triple Talaq’ about Muslim women being weak and hapless is a warped perspective of Muslim women.

Can anyone forget the resistance at ‘Shaheen Bagh’? The sight of Muslim women camping for months in biting cold fighting to safeguard their homes, territories and their nationality that was under threat of being snatched away was truly inspirational as the world watched.

In 2019, the United Nations official, Adama Dieng, spoke on the dangers of hate speech and intolerance. We all have to remember that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech, he emphasised.

The holocaust did not start with gas chambers; it started long before with hate speech. Words kill, words kill as bullets.

Today, what we are witnessing around the world, with the rise of extremists, when we see the growing number of neo-Nazi groups, neo-fascist groups, when we see the way migrants and refugees are being vilified, we need, therefore, to make every effort to address this hate speech.

December 9 was declared as the annual international day of commemoration and dignity of the victims of the crime of genocide and of the prevention of this crime in September 2015 by the United Nations.

The signs of an impending genocide are omnipresent everywhere. How else can one negate the fact that spiteful and bigoted programmes are aired repeatedly on national media with complete impunity and these destructive views are amplified further on social media leading to radicalisation of society?

The Sangh umbrella for long has been engineering this hate through its foot soldiers and getting away with it. For instance, if the criminals who launched the ‘Sulli Deals” online were brought to task some time ago, we would not be witnessing the horrors of the “Bulli Bai” unfurling before our eyes today.

The holocaust was long pending in India when BJP won just two seats in Parliament in 1984 and began ideating a campaign of hate which saw the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 by the right-wing radicals in India.

As kids we quickly got accustomed to the term ‘riots’; it was commonplace to have regular riots in the Hindi heartland like Meerut where my roots are. The Army used to be called in those days for relief work when curfew used to be imposed upon the city. But these things were always kept in check as the ruling dispensation was accountable to the people.

The irony is that today the erstwhile alleged rioters and genociders of 1992 and 2002 are in power, so who does one go to when war cries of a ‘Muslim genocide’ is taking place at public functions with complete impunity.

At times when there is a surge of Covid cases amid the fear of an impending third wave, we haven’t learnt our lessons from the first and second wave.

The priority of the ruling dispensation should have been a complete overhaul of the public healthcare system in preparation for the third wave. Instead, what appears as evident is that the government is least interested in that. Since its winning plank happens to be ‘polarisation’ and engineering a tsunami of hate for electoral benefits.

A few days ago, in Haridwar, right-wing radicals openly said that the real danger is from churches and mosques. They also added that Islam is a fast poison and Christianity a slow poison and demanded that both Muslims and Hindus get wiped out from the face of this earth.

Recently, former Indian armed forces veterans wrote an open letter to PM Modi, criticising hate speech on minorities.

This won’t stop until the silent majority speaks up and condemns these gory incidents.

In December, a church was allegedly vandalised by unidentified miscreants in Karnataka’s southern district Chikkaballapur. This attack comes on the heels of several other similar incidents, targeting the Christian community ahead of the controversial anti-conversion bill in the Karnataka Assembly. The Bishop made a statement to the effect that elected leaders are challenging the constitution, and the government is doing nothing to protect minorities.

Later, Bishops, Nuns and religious leaders of the Christian community were out on the roads in Bengaluru to protest the recent attacks and vandalisation of churches.

The latest in systematic targeting of minorities is the Union government going after the ‘Missionaries of Charity’, Mother Teresa’s organisation, by cancelling its FCRA. The fact that the government chose the date 25th December to freeze all bank accounts of MOC, leaving 22,000 patients and employees in the dock without food and medicine exposes its empty claim about mainstreaming the minorities.

Communalism was earlier relegated to the fringes; now it’s become mainstream and it is not surprising anymore. The rot was setting in for some time.

Last year saw the auctioning of Muslim women online on an app called Sulli Deals. Even Najeeb’s mother was not spared. This is just a reflection of India’s broken justice system. Definitely, there must be some truth in stories when surveys say we are becoming one of the most unsafe countries for women.

Repeated complaints from women politicians made to IT minister Ashwini Vaishnav fell on deaf ears. Priyanka Chaturvedi from the Shiv Sena tweeted: “I have repeatedly asked Hon.IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav ji to take stern action against such rampant misogyny and communal targeting of women through Sulli deals like platforms. A shame that it continues to be ignored.”

Can we ignore the fact that today’s Bulli Deals auction targeting Indian Muslim women is a direct result of the government agencies taking zero cognizance of complaints filed by many vocal Muslim women? The perpetrators of gross cyber crimes have gone unpunished, unchecked which has emboldened the criminals further.

A few days ago, Yati Narasinghanand had called on Hindu youth to become Prabhakaran and Bhindranwale and provoked Hindus to pick up arms against the Muslims, promising to give them Rs one crore for it.

Yati Narasinghanand happens to be one of the organisers of the event. He faces criminal cases in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi as well.

Another speaker at the event, Sagar Sindhu Maharaj, whose name was added, had asked Hindus to have more children and spare Muslims only if they converted to Hinduism.

Since the Haridwar event, a spate of similar incidents of hate speech also took place across the country.

In a viral video of a similar event in Delhi on 19th December, right-wing Hindu groups could be seen taking the following oath: “We take an oath and make a resolution that till our last breath, we will fight, die for and if need be, kill, to make this country a Hindu Rashtra and keep this country a Hindu Rashtra.”

On 30th December, Chhattisgarh police also booked religious leader Kalicharan for allegedly using derogatory language against Mahatma Gandhi at an event in Madhya Pradesh’s Khajuraho.

It’s not surprising that BJP leaders feign ignorance when asked about hate speeches in their states. Take for example Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami who completely feigned amnesia when asked about the Haridwar Hate Assembly after ten days had lapsed.

However, as far as the ‘dharam sansad’ is concerned, Dhami said that the government did not organise it.

As India gets caught up in the intersection of hegemony, misogyny, bigotry, casteism, violence, impunity, there should be a collective action around the complete breakdown of a healthy, bustling, thriving democracy.

The punch in the gut fear of being Muslims in Modi-fied India is as real as it can be. Muslims have been a resilient lot since 2014. Many have chosen to be apolitical, many are keeping silent, many are watching the events unfold with dread and fear, but one thing is certain they will not get cowed down or bullied into becoming second-class citizens in their own country.

It’s now up to the ruling dispensation to decide which path to choose and a gentle reminder that notoriety doesn’t equal fame.

Would they like to be remembered as another fascist movement, a totalitarian regime that pushed its citizenry into civil war or a government that walked the talk of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’? Honorable PM Narendra Modi Si, the ball is in your court now.


*Saira Shah Halim is an educator and a civil rights activist.

**All views are personal 

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