According to the 42nd Amendment of the constitution of India implemented in 1976, the Preamble to the constitution asserted that India is a secular nation. Secularism may be defined as the separation of religion and state i.e., religious groups don’t interfere in state affairs and vice versa. It protects both believers and non-believers and gives them freedom of religious beliefs and practices. It does not give advantages or disadvantages to any citizen based on their religious beliefs. In this light, may I dare to ask, “Is India truly a secular country?”
India is viewed as a model of a secular, diverse nation, but the growing discrimination, hate speech, violence, and lynching, tell a whole different story. Dr. Gregory Stanton, the creator of the ‘10 Stages to Genocide,’ a methodology for identifying the events leading up to a potential genocide, has warned that genocide could occur in India. Genocide is the systematic destruction of a specific national, ethnic, racial, or religious group or community. It is a process, not a single act, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Genocide, Adama Dieng, said that the Holocaust did not begin with gas chambers, it began with hate speech.
The demand for India to be declared as a “Hindu State” by some right-wing Hindu organizations is a glaring illustration of India’s pseudo-secularism. Since July 28, 2020, there have been petitions before the Supreme Court of India to remove the terms “secular” and “socialist” from the Preamble to the Indian Constitution.
Infantry regiments in the Indian army are still divided by religion (Sikh regiments), ethnicity (Gorkha), caste (Rajput), or region (Garhwal), with members of other faiths, ethnicities, and regions forbidden from serving. Food taboos alike ban on cow slaughter and restrictions to not selling eggs openly, as it upsets some caste sensitivities, impacted the minorities. The upper castes may worship the cow, but Christians, Dalits, and Muslims do not. Many Muslims and Dalits were attacked based on the rumors that they’ve killed cows.
Several cases where Hindu mobs forced Muslims to chant “Jai Shri Ram” have been reported. In the year 2020, between the morning of February 25 and the midnight of February 26, 9 Muslim men were brutally killed and thrown into a drain in Bhagirathi Vihar when they refused to chant the slogan. The attacks were planned on a WhatsApp group named Kattar Hindu Ekta to “take revenge on Muslims”.
In 2019, the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed, which allows amnesty to non-Muslim immigrants from three neighbouring countries (namely, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan). During the rally, eighteen Muslim activists were charged with violating an anti-terror law. The Delhi Minorities Commission conducted an independent inquiry into the Delhi riots, which resulted in the deaths of 53 persons, and found that the violence was planned and targeted, with some police officers engaged.
Muslims in India has been referred to as extremists, terrorists, Bengalis, pests, and infiltrators. The term ‘jihad’ has been used to demonize Muslims. Love jihad is a conspiracy theory which claims that Muslim males lure Hindu women and force them to marry and convert. This has resulted in mob violence and the passage of anti-conversion legislation in various states. Hate groups and officials accused the ‘Tablighi Jamaat‘, a Muslim religious group, of hosting super spreading activities, using the name Corona-Jihad.
On July 4, last year, 80 Indian Muslim women were placed up for sale on a fake online auction. Under ‘Find your Sulli deal of the day’, it allows customers to purchase a Sulli. Sulli is a derogatory term for Indian Muslim women used by right-wing Hindu organizations. Soon after, another auctioning app called ‘Bulli Bai‘ appeared. Following the investigations, police arrested the true mastermind of the app- Shweta Singh, an 18-year-old girl from Uttarakhand, Vishal Kumar Jha, a 21-year-old engineering student, Mayank Rawal, a 21-year-old from Uttarakhand, and Neeraj Bishnoi, a 21-year-old pursuing Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology.
In August 2021, goons were witnessed whilst brazenly shouting “Muslims will be killed in the name of Ram” on road in Uttar Pradesh. Right-wing Hindu organizations keep attempting to prevent Muslims from offering Friday prayers, and ancient mosques are being targeted for conversion to temples. Cauliflower cultivation has recently been mentioned by a right-wing group, which is an open call to genocide. It refers to the 1989 Logain massacre, in which 116 Muslims were killed by a 4000-strong mob led by a police officer. Their bodies were buried and covered by a cauliflower and cabbage plantation.
On the internet, a recent conference organized by Haridwar Dharam Sansad monks went viral. The speakers were anti-Muslim and advocated for the execution of Muslims. Still, no action was taken against these hatemongers. “Get ready to kill or be killed, there is no option. Just like in Myanmar, every Hindu, including police, army, politicians, should start the cleaning (of Muslims) like it happened in Myanmar.”
In December 2021, a group of six Muslim students in the state of Karnataka were prevented from attending classes because they wore the hijab. They were told that if they wanted to attend classes, they needed to remove their headscarves. On January 4, 2022, Hindu students in Koppa protested wearing saffron scarves against their hijab-clad classmates. The protests continued, with a clash between students wearing saffron shawls and others wearing the hijab. While the Karnataka High Court has prohibited religious symbols from being worn in schools and colleges, the state of Madhya Pradesh has banned hijab following right-wing protests.
The term ‘lynching’ has become so common since 2014 when BJP came into power but a deadly violence against Muslims did happen in 2002, when Narendra Modi was the Gujarat’s chief minister. Mobs stormed the state, looting, raping, and burning, in response to a rumor that Muslims had set a train carriage carrying Hindu pilgrims on fire. Over 2000 Muslims were killed, and tens of thousands were displaced. A senior police officer and minister who was later assassinated, had said that the attacks were well-planned and Modi had instructed the police not to get in the path of the killers.
“We take an oath to fight and kill (Muslims) to turn India into a Hindu only nation.” – Hindutva Organization ‘Hindu Yuva Vahini’.
Constant attempts are being made to break the secular fabric of India, which has already been well-fractured. The violent activities have become an everyday occurrence. Is there any hope for India to restore its original secularism?
Maria Aqdas is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Zaina Shahid Khan