Indian democracy: a threat to its religious minorities

Habib Siddiqui

Indian democracy has always been in the majority since its early days as a republic. In fact, the trend has its roots in the pre-partition days of the Congressional leadership which did not allow for an inclusive democracy in which Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities could participate on an equal footing.

This majority attraction of Hindu rulers like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel made Jinnah and tens of millions of Muslims feel alienated. And the rest is history! Pakistan emerged, albeit eaten by moths, as a separate state.

While all the founding fathers of the Indian republic are dead now, but their ghosts are still with us like Narendra Modi and other Indocentric politicians who have the absolute right to decide how India is to be run, and who is an Indian and who is not. Thanks to the toxic fascist ideology of the Hindutva, promoted under the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) regime, non-Hindu minority religious groups are today worse than ever in India’s volatile history.

A presumption and anticipation of a so-called criminal act cannot be an offense, but this is not the case in India led by the BJP. Under Narendra Modi, even apolitical humorous jokes can result in incarceration in India, especially when the comedian is not a Hindu.

Munawar Faruqui, a Muslim comedian in India, has been arrested for jokes he did not make. On the evening of January 1, 2021, he launched a 14-city tour with a paid show at a cafe in the central city of Indore, India. Eklavya Gaud, the son of a ruling BJP politician, had arrived and stopped the show, complaining that the comic “insulted” Hindu religious sentiments.

Indore is a major city in Madhya Pradesh, which is ruled by Hindu nationalist BJP. Hindus constitute the vast majority of the Indian population. Faruqui ended up spending a month in prison.

In October, activists from a fascist Hindutvavadi group came to the café to demand a ban on Faru-qui broadcasts. He has now alluded to the abandonment of comedy after the cancellation of a dozen shows in Mumbai and Bangalore following protests by Hindu fascist groups.

If this is the attitude of the ruling BJP government towards humorous jokes, it is not difficult to understand the horrific state of intolerance facing hundreds of millions of religious minorities in India, from places like Kashmir in the west to Nagaland, Assam and Tripura in the east on a daily basis. They face genocidal pogroms, unfair detentions, rapes or torture because of who they are and what they believe to be at odds with those of the Hindu majority.

Every Friday, Najis Mohammad offered his afternoon prayers on public land near his barber shop in Gurugram, still popular under its old name Gurgaon – a satellite town on the outskirts of India’s capital, New Delhi. He can no longer pray Jum’aa there. A number of Hindu politicians and priests, including Kapil Mishra, who belong to the BJP, have interrupted the Jum’aa prayer for local Muslims. It should be remembered that Mishra was accused of inciting religious violence in New Delhi which killed more than 50 Muslims last year, and yet he is running free in Modi’s India.

“Permission to offer prayers at eight previously identified sites has been revoked,” Gurugram police said in a statement. He added that if objections were raised by residents in other places, “the authorization to offer prayers will also be canceled there.”

The police move followed a weeks-long campaign by Hindu groups and local residents who disrupted Friday prayers at these sites by playing religious chants over loudspeakers and throwing hate slogans. A coordinating group of Hindu groups, called the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti (Joint Hindu Wrestling Committee), even issued an “ultima-tum” to the authorities, saying that they themselves would stop Muslim prayers if the administration of Gurugram did not. so.

Muslim parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi said the Gurugram administration’s decision to ban Friday prayers on certain sites violated Article 25 of the Indian constitution which guarantees Indian citizens the freedom to profess, practice and to propagate their religion.

“How is it that practicing my religion or offering my Jum’ah namaz [Friday prayers] once a week for 15-20 minutes hurts someone? He told Al Jazeera.

Religious intolerance towards Muslims shows no sign of ebbing in Modi’s India. It has essentially become a safe recipe for seizing and retaining power in this country of 1.4 billion people.

Muslim villagers living in Naraura in Tri-pura state heard villagers screaming in panic at around 10:00 pm on October 23, 2021. As they rushed to the exit, a wooden beer and prayer rugs in the courtyard of the local mosque were on fire. Apparently, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), which agitated against Muslims, is behind the fire in the mosque.

Let’s not forget that the VHP is affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological source of India’s Hindu supremacist groups who seek to convert India into an ethnic Hindu-only state. (Most of the top leaders of the ruling BJP in India, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, started their political careers as RSS workers.)

Tripura, an eastern state dominated by Bengali-speaking Hindus on the border with Bangladesh, is currently ruled by Modi’s BJP. Muslims who live there, like those in Assam, are traumatized and now live in fear.

“There are 16 mosques that have been targeted in Tripura,” said Mufti Abdul Momin, a Muslim cleric.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom – an independent, bipartisan federal government commission that makes recommendations on religious freedom and foreign policy to the United States President, the United States Senate, and the State Department – said in October that ‘she was alarmed by the reports of violence. against Muslims in Tripura and urged the Indian government to prevent attacks.

USCIRF is particularly alarmed by reports from Tripura of mobs desecrating mosques and torching Muslim properties. The Indian government must bring to justice those responsible for inciting and engaging in religious violence and must prevent further attacks, ”USCIRF said in a tweet.

Earlier this year, India’s interior ministry told India’s parliament that 348 people had died in police custody and 5,221 in police custody over the past three years. These numbers indicate the anemic health of the modified Indian democracy, which is increasingly becoming a joke.

In early November 2021, the death of a young Muslim, Mohammad Altaf, 22, in custody in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, and the subsequent clarification by the police sparked outrage in India. Altaf has been falsely accused of kidnapping a Hindu girl.

A photograph showing Altaf hanging from a water pipe in the toilet has gone viral on social media. Altaf was approximately 5 feet 6 inches (167 cm) tall and the water pipe was less than three feet (91.4 cm) from the ground. How could a 5.6ft tall young man hang himself from a much shorter pipe? Al-taf’s family requested an investigation from the Central Bureau of Investigation into his death.

Such deaths in custody (23 people died in police custody and 1,295 in custody over the same three-year period) have become quite common in Uttar Pradesh, which is governed by the BJP.

Its chief minister is Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu priest, who has had criminal charges against him for directing violence against Muslims.

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