When Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, “women from respectable Hindu families sent him a sweater they had made for him.” 70 years later when Rajasthan psychopath Shambhulal Regar hacked a Muslim man to death, and then burnt his body, some 516 people across India donated Rs 3 lakh to him. Rewarding the killers “in the name of Hindutva” might have its roots in the contemporary Indian past, but in the times of ruling BJP, it has emboldened Hindu fanatics and highlighted the larger existential crisis of Muslims in India.
On December 7, a video of a Hindu man identified as Shambhu Lal killing a 45-year-old Muslim man Mohammad Afrazul in India’s state of Rajasthan in a hate crime, surfaced on the social media. The manner of the killing is brutal.
In the clip posted online, he can be seen leading the victim to a forest. Shambu Lal then attacks him with an axe and the victim can be heard screaming for help. He then sprinkles the body with gasoline, sets it on fire, rages with a hate speech and appears openly in the video with a message: “This is what will happen to you (Muslims) if you do Love Jihad in our country.”
‘Love Jihad’ is a term used by Hindu extremist groups to target Muslim men for inter-religious marriages.
The many theories that are being formed now seem to suggest: the murderer is a mentally-disturbed man or the victim was involved in an illicit relationship with a Hindu woman.
Whatever be the reasons leading to the murder of Afrazul, one thing is visible: he was killed with impunity and in the rage of a legitimized Islamophobia.
Since the formation of the right-wing BJP government in New Delhi, Muslims in India have been killed with such impunity on the accusation of storing beef, smuggling cows, wearing skullcaps, having sympathy for Pakistan, or luring Hindu women into what they call “love jihad”.
Many trace the origin of such hate crimes against Indian Muslims in India’s partition, which is a farrago of grief, pledges and political contradictions.
Rise of Hindutva and post partition miseries of India’s minority Muslim population
In his Presidential address to the annual session of the Muslim League held at Lucknow in October 1937, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, said: “Hindi is to be the national language of all India, Vande Mataram is to be the national song, and is to be forced upon all. The majority community have clearly shown their hand that Hindu is for Hindus.”
Jinnah saw no political future of an undivided India and realized that the problem will prove harmful not only to the Muslims but to the British and Hindus also. “Islam and Hinduism are distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies.” (Jinnah; Lahore, 1940).
In 1939, M.S. Golwalkar, leader of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization, published a policy manifesto entitled ‘We, or Our Nation Defined’, in which it was declared: “The non-Hindu peoples in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of Hindu race and culture… They are wholly sub-ordinate to Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, not even citizen’s rights…”
It goes without saying that this diatribe reflects that contemporary fascist ‘Race Spirit’. “The Muslim here takes the place of the Jew in the Nazi rhetoric” (Amales Tripathi; Indian National Congress and the Struggle for Freedom 1885-1947, p.456).
“Golwalkar saw three principal threats to the formation of a Hindu nation- Muslims, Christians and communists. He saw them as akin to the demons, or rakshashas, of Indian mythology” (Ramachandra Guha; Makers of Modern India; M.S. Golwalkar, p. 371).
To Golwalkar, Indian Muslims threatened the unity and strength of the Hindu nation. “…hostile elements within the country pose a far greater menace to national security than aggressors from outside” (Bunch of Thoughts, Collected Speeches of Golwalkar).
When Pakistan finally became a reality, many Muslims decided to remain with the ‘Secular’ India but would remain minorities forever.
There was no greater opposition to partition as Muslim leaders of the Congress had expected to have come from other Indian leaders.
“Among Congressmen, the greatest supporter of Partition was Sardar Patel” (Maulana Azad; Divided India, India Wins Freedom, p. 225). “India gained freedom but lost her unity” (India Wins Freedom, p.246). The Muslims who stayed in India had a grave situation before them.
“The situation in Muslim dominated areas became so bad that no Muslim householde could go to sleep at night with the confidence that he would wake up alive the next morning” (Maulana Azad; India Wins Freedom). “The attitude of the Army now became a critical issue. The communal virus entered the Army” (India Wins Freedom, p.229).
The 45 million Muslims who remained in India were rendered weak. Interestingly Maulana Azad was a staunch opponent of partition and stayed in India. He writes that the Muslims of India were completely demoralized and suffered from a sense of utter helplessness.
As Delhi Administration was under Patel, he would say to Gandhi that there were no reasons for Muslims to complain and the reports of their killings were grossly exaggerated.
“Muslim citizens were killed like cats and dogs. At a time when Muslims were murdered in Delhi in open daylight, he calmly told Gandhiji that Jawaharlal Nehru’s complaints were completely incomprehensible” (India Wins Freedom, p. 232).
Patel belonged to Gandhi’s inner circle and owned his political existence to him. He became the party president due to Gandhi’s influence. He would even defend the attacks on Muslims by bringing rusted kitchen knives saying Muslims carried out deadly attacks with them.
“Gandhiji said that he saw Muslims of Delhi being killed before his own eyes. Sardar Patel was indifferent when Gandhiji fasted on the Muslim security issue” (India Wins Freedom, p.243).
Communal tensions in Kashmir
The communal tensions soon spread to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir when Patel played a communal card while insisting that Kashmir was a Hindu state, knowing the fact that it was a Muslim majority state. This denial was to be made institutionalized among the political sphere of India when he sought the help of RSS for Kashmir’s accession with India.
M.S. Golwalkar’s help was also sought in this regard. Later, Muslims in Jammu were massacred under a well orchestrated plan that is still not talked of by Muslims of Jammu due to fear of the growing majority in Jammu. This position by the RSS was taken as early as 1947 where they talked of turning the majority population into a minority.
“Above all Kashmir has a historic importance too. Not a thousand years back, it was a seat of Hindu culture and learning. At every step in Kashmir there lies our worship and sacred place… That distant past had to be recreated erasing the history in between which is dear to all Kashmiris” (Importance of Kashmir, RSS, 1947).
Ghettoization of Indian Muslims is a reality of partition. Karol Bagh, Lodhi Colony, Sabzi Mandi, Sadar Bazar and many other places in Delhi are a witness of how India’s Muslims are enduring their sufferings. “India is indeed changing and changing for the worse. Perhaps, it is time that India’s security establishment realizes the folly of their counterterrorism modus operandi of ghettoizing Muslims and keeping them under constant pressure” (Seema Sengupta; Arab News, 19 Jan, 2015).
The coming of Yogi Adityanath
In the month of March this year, a surprising development took place across the political center of India. Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest was chosen as the Chief Minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.
Not many people knew about Yogi Adityanath. After the news was received across social media, many old videos of Yogi began to surface. In one of the videos, a speaker is seen asking Hindus to rape dead Muslim women.
In another video, which has lakhs of views on YouTube (which Yogi would not have expected, of course, except for appearing as an unpleasant surprise), he warns Muslims of love jihad: “If you take one, we will take hundred; If you kill one, we will kill hundred.” A large crowd claps and answers loudly in affirmation to his calls.
Yogi is furious and vindictive. He wants to silence people. He knows all the “languages you would like to be answered with”. This rage rarely makes him a statesman. Yogi Adityanath says that when India becomes a Hindu Rashtra, Muslims will become second class citizens and that the right to vote will be taken away from them.
This, according to him, will solve the communalization of politics in India. This concept of denying Muslims their citizenship rights was given by Golwalkar as far back as 1939.
Mounting attacks on Indian Muslims in the times of ruling BJP
With the rise of the current right-wing BJP government, attacks on the Muslims have seemingly increased. 86% killed in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslim, as recently released by a survey. On the occasion of Eid this year, a 16-year-old Muslim boy was killed in a public train while he was on his way home. The incidents of mob violence against Muslims have also seen a rise while India’s Prime Minister, himself an accused in the Gujrat riots, has mostly remained silent.
In 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched on the allegation of storing beef. In a show of absolute shame, a BJP legislator posted on Twitter sections from the Hindu text, the Vedas that allegedly mandate killing people who slaughter cows. That year, a Kashmiri trucker named Zahid was burnt alive in Jammu when Kashmir was up in arms against the beef ban enforced by the High Court of J&K.
Will this sustained violence against Muslims in India go the way to take an authoritarian mode?
Will they become India’s second class citizens soon?
The author is pursuing a bachelor’s in law from Central University of Kashmir.