Indian democracy and secularism are often touted as the essence of the Indian Constitution, but the persecution and vilification of minorities in India has led to questions about the basic bedrock of India’s democratic credentials and its secularism. Despite the diversity of religions represented, religious freedom in India has deteriorated swiftly with the BJP coming into power under Modi’s leadership. Although much of the discrimination is against Muslims, violence against the Christian community has greatly increased as well. The recent report issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has categorised India a Tier 2 country because of persistent conditions unfriendly to religious freedom. Under Modi’s dispensation, the situation for Indian Muslims appears to be deteriorating by the day. Anti-conversion and anti-cow slaughter laws represent a direct threat to the secular claims of the Indian constitution.
Instead of ensuring minorities receive their due rights and protection, the Indian parliament led by the BJP government approved the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)—a fast track to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from its neighbouring countries. The said act has prompted widespread protests in India as it offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, but Muslims are excluded from this protection under CAA. The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, continued enforcement of anti-conversion and cow slaughtering laws and last year, the Indian supreme court’s controversial verdict on Babri Masjid bears testimony to the fact that Modi’s fascist government has created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities. Non-Hindu communities are living in a perpetual state of fear on account of the discriminatory policies of PM Modi’s administration and tolerance of religious violence by Hindu-supremacists against vulnerable minorities at the state level. In a country where people define themselves by their orthodox religious beliefs, where does this leave the marginalised communities? The mob lynching of Muslims on suspicions of eating beef; the inhuman lockdown of Indian-Held Kashmir and the recent communal riots in Indian capital all point to the fact that Indian state itself condones and supports divisive policies. In today’s India, the Hindutva narrative prevails. This dangerously growing trend is now projecting the real image of the world’s biggest democracy to the international community.
The consensus among Indian activists and political analysts is that their society, under Mr Modi, has become more toxically divided between Hindu and Muslim, between the upper and lower castes, between men and women. Congress leader Sonia Gandhi condemned BJP’s anti-Muslim drive and blamed Modi for spreading the virus of communal prejudice. Indian writer Arundhati Roy accused Delhi for using social unrest during the COVID-19 crisis to encourage genocidal behaviour towards Muslims. The spurious allegations of corona Jihad are all part of a sick pattern to strip Indian Muslims of their rights. The weather in India is hotter than usual, and dry and dusty for the defenceless Muslims.
Hindutva extremism is an important source of violence in contemporary India. BJP governments at the federal and state levels and RSS activists act to implement their Hindutva agenda. This agenda, which is aimed at making secular India a Hindu state and homogenising its plural society, is being furthered through a series of actions, including the enactment of CAA and implementation of National Register of Citizens. In fact, Modi has made India an unsafe place for minorities. The rise of ethno-nationalism, under BJP leadership, is slowly unravelling the secular democratic fabric of Mahatma Gandhi’s homeland. Modi instead, wants to promote the Gujarat model of vicious right-wing populist politics, which sought to create and elevate a Hindu majority out of a socially and economically diverse population to act as a voting bloc for BJP.
The BJP leaders have equated the peaceful protests against the controversial law with treason and called for the persecution of the protestors. One of Modi’s cabinet ministers, Paresh Verma swore during election rally that the protestors would be sent packing within hours of BJP victory and that if left unchecked they would rape and kill. Members of the ruling Hindutva clique hardly face any reprimands from their leadership and they can easily get away with demonising Muslims and other minorities. Threat to Indian Muslims is no longer an internal issue of India as Muslims are facing an oppressive power whose objectives towards its victims are eliminating them and challenging their survival. In that respect, there is no difference between Hitler’s attitude towards the Jews and Modi’s attitude towards the Muslims. The comparison between Nazi Germany and Hindutva is quite apt. It’s the need of time for the world community to hold India accountable for all its misdeeds and to take concrete steps to make India change its communal behaviour. India will never be ‘great’ until it protects its religious minorities and their constitutionally recognised fundamental rights, including the freedom to profess and propagate religion.