Monday, April 15, 2024
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The Creepy Syndrome of Extremism in India

Extremism is a complex issue with deep-rooted historical, social, economic, and political factors. Growing extremism in India manifests itself in various forms, including religious, political, ethnic, racial, and ideological. Religious extremism, particularly Hindu extremism, has gained significant attention in recent years, with the renewed rise of violent groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates/offshoots. These groups exclusively promote a very narrow interpretation of Hinduism, which often advocates the marginalization of religious minorities, particularly Muslims. Unfortunately, this approach of marginalization of Muslims and religious minorities is leading the Indian society towards communal tensions, chaos, and violence in several parts of the country.

Since the onset of BJP government under the rule of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi; the extremist and highly discriminatory policies of BJP towards Indian Muslims have raised alarms for the people of country, the region and beyond. BJP policies are based on RSS ideology of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism with an idea to form Akhand Bharat – a state which is true representative of Hindu culture and religion only. Events of 1998 nuclear explosion, violence against Christians, Gujarat carnage and strengthening of Indo-Israel ties are few of examples of BJP’s extremist policies. Moreover, in the current times, use of anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Pakistan sentiments as a tool to gain vote bank in ongoing election campaign explicitly explains the extremist mindset of BJP.

Modi’s mantra of making India a Hindu Nation comprising of India’s religious minorities (about 20% of the population) as second-class citizens and Muslims especially (about 14% of Indians) are compelled to accept increasing majoritarian violence. The communal violence against Muslims has become a core component of Modi’s India. International groups, such as Freedom House and V-Dem, consider India only “partly free” and an “electoral autocracy” owing to the sharp decline of human and civil rights. BJP has attempted to pass laws banning conversions from Hinduism and restricting the rights of religious minorities. Moreover there are some other important laws being inexplicably used against Muslims, i.e Sections 295-A (deliberate act intended to outrage religious feelings of any community), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion), 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief), 143 (unlawful assembly), 124-A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, and Section 151 (arrest to prevent commission of a crime) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Muslims in India have consistently been threatened since the Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014. But in recent times, hostility towards the Muslim community has become even more overt. Today, far-right Hindu nationalists with the support, mostly of state’s patronage and local authorities, are making it clear to Muslims that they are no longer seen as equal citizens in their own country. Indian media frequently cite accounts of criminal cases being filed against Muslims with no evidence of criminality. Indian constitution which accords basic rights to every citizen of India; equal citizenship rights to Indians are increasingly forgotten in the context of Indian Muslims and minorities.

RSS and BJP also launched the Ghar Wapsi and Bahu Lao Beti Bachao campaign (It encourages Hindu boys to marry girls from Muslim or Christian communities to convert them to Hinduism) to counter the very ‘Love Jihad myth’. In addition to this, Hindu extremist organizations and their offshoots often use saffronization as a tool to promote the party’s agenda, the main objective of the policy is to brainwash the young minds along with introducing the educational courses of Geeta, Maha-Bharat, and Hindu Literature for Muslims in Indian institutes to legitimize BJP rule and to keep Party’s sole identity alive to remain in power. In Feb 2022, the southern State of Karnataka banned women from wearing a hijab in classrooms while the BJP party argued that “wearing a hijab is not an essential practice of Islam.” Every other day, Hindu Nationalists have been seen brandishing swords and chanting anti-Muslim slogans outside the mosques. Demolishing of mosques and madrassahs has become a norm for the BJP extremists. Several videos related to mob attacks on Muslims are frequently shared on social media, which unfortunately is no longer an anomaly for the Indian authorities and the outside world.

Killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar (18 Jun 2023), a Sikh independence advocate in Canada is another blatant episode/example of target killing, a violation of territorial integrity and transnational repression. Following his death, the World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nijjar firm supporter of Khalistan who “often led peaceful protests against the violation of human rights actively taking place in India.” Several States have shown concerns but have stopped short of condemning the India’s illegal act of human rights violations or transnational repression exclusively, which infact raises the question of whether the double standards are applied or the game of realpolitik is back in the case of Nijjar’s killing.

A Surge in Hindu extremism in India has domestic and regional ramifications. The creepy syndrome of the extremist policies, violence, and discriminatory approach towards Indian Muslims have already deteriorated India’s relations with its neighbors. Extremists are becoming powerful. BJP’s increasing dominance all across Indian institutions is altogether limiting the society’s capacity to push back against the rising extremist policies and agenda. Growing menace of extremism in India questions the silence of international community and the vocals of human rights. The outside world does not seem to be bothered about the violence against Muslims or willing to take a stand for the increasing human rights violations against minorities going on in India under the rule of the BJP. But focusing on prioritizing strategic ties and economic benefits at the cost of state-sanctioned violence against the 220 Million Muslims and other minorities in India. This is high time that international community must play its part in securing minority rights and putting an end to continuous assaults against Muslims and other minorities in India. If not stopped now, it will further exacerbate the situation and may lead to the religious disintegration and alienation of minorities in India.

Tooba Mansoor
+ posts

The author is serving as a Senior Research Officer at Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad.

Tooba Mansoor
The author is serving as a Senior Research Officer at Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad.

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