Saturday, December 19, 2015

How Rising Islamophobia and Growing Intolerance in Modi's India is being countered

 India is seething with emboldened criminals and bullies. It is reeling under strategically ignited religious tensions, and the cultural terrorism of vigilante groups. Hindu bigotry is in an open, all-out war with pluralism. There’s unrest in Gujarat, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir. Caste and gender atrocities continue unabated. Ministers and members of parliament regularly make ugly statements that don’t cost them their jobs. Cow worship and beef wars have replaced development at the top of the noise spectrum.
The above para from a leading business newspaper , only begins to describe the untold horrors being experienced within India being unleashed by India's Hindu Nationalist government and the Hitler reincarnate Narendra Modi. India, a veritable heaven of tolerance under the progressive Congress party for years, is now a bloody playground for violent Hindutva thugs and goons, causing enormous damage to India's image in the international sphere.
Shashi Tharoor, a leading MP of the Congress party, did a video for the The Guardian which provided stirring commentary effectively mixing facts with powerful rhetoric to counter the rising Islamophobia in Modi's India. It was indeed a sign of stark intolerance that the redoubtable Guardian had to change it's original headline from that in the below picture to the now mellowed down version of Narendra Modi's war on pluralism is destroying India's reputation.


In fact, the Guardian has often been a leading voice of reason against this rampant Islamophobia and rising intolerance by Modi. It's coverage during the visit of Modi to UK contained many exemplary pieces including this by Pankaj Mishra and this by Anish Kapoor . The headlines were quite orgasmic for India's marginalised liberals - constantly targetted by hate speech by online trolls.

Talibanising Hinduism

Meanwhile, despite the complete and utter suppression of dissent and free speech in India, a few pockets of resistance have been seen. Apart from #AwardWapasi by many noted intellectuals including Munawar Rana  there were others too who have tried raising their voice. The noted author Amit Chaudhuri mentioned that : Wahabi Hinduism is decimating the pluralism of the religion, No doubt he was probably beaten up by a lynch mob of angry Internet Hindus - thereby precisely proving the point that Hinduisim had become like Wahabi Islam - which had nothing to do with Islam.

In the aftermath of the most barbaric incident in India - the Dadri killing and moves towards wholesale banning of the single source of nutritious diet in India - beef, there was a move to create a false equivalence with the lack of reporting coverage on the death of one Hindu activist in Moodabidri. 
However, these diversionary tactics by saffron forces was completely debunked by leading news anchor in India - Rajdeep Sardesai as follows:

Well, I'll tell you why. To begin with, any killing is condemnable. But when we seek to compare two instances without even bothering to examine the political context, we are entering dangerous territory. Prashant Poojary was a Bajrang Dal activist in Moodbidri. The Bajrang Dal has self-admittedly used violence as a weapon against minorities (don't believe me, meet Babu Bajrangi in Gujarat or listen to him in a Tehelka expose). Poojary has been allegedly involved in cases of intimidation and violence in the region. He was fighting the “beef Mafia” as part of the anti-cow slaughter agitation. He didn't deserve to die under any circumstance but there is a political context to his death as there would be in Bengal when Trinamool workers clash with cadres of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
(Note; It is mildly disappointing that he used TMC & CPI(M) as examples of violence though - secular parties like them, have rarely, if ever indulged in them).

One of the common talking points to target India's most tolerant Muslim community is to conflate them with Globally Jihadi terrorism. Global Jihadi or Islamist terrorism, which has nothing do with Islam, is a result of colonialism, globalisation, global warming, rising inequality, rampant Islamophobia etc. Recently, The Hindu carried an extremely illuminating article which dismissed India's claim to be a victim of global terrorism (which has nothing to do with Islam) and be counted on the same side as the west:
Despite its role as an easily accessible and internationally recognised site for terrorist innovation, however, Mumbai doesn’t belong in the same group as Paris, London, Madrid or New York as targets of al-Qaeda and now Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism. India isn’t a serious target for these groups despite appearing on their imaginary maps like so many other places. But instead of being thankful for this situation, a number of Indian journalists and policymakers seem anxious that the country be recognised as a victim of globalised terrorism, and so an ally of the Europeans and Americans fighting against it. This longing to join the all-white club of terrorism’s leading enemies can even be seen as a perversion of the older desire that India take her place among the great powers. 
 But more importantly, the article made an ever bigger point that the Islamist groups which are against India are actually nationalistic in nature and that nation should be grateful for that.
While India is not immune to the politics of culture, the state continues to dominate social relations there in such a way as to define, if not produce, all forms of resistance as well. But by the same token, it limits such resistance so that Islamic militancy in India remains conventional and bizarrely even “nationalist”.
Despite the massive clampdown on Freedom of Speech of political rivals, efforts are ongoing by brave, secular politicians to speak against Islamophobia. Mamata Banerjee, CM of West Bengal managed to attend a rally organised by Jamiat Ulama i Hind ( a nationalistic Islamist organization). The rally was called as a protest against rising intolerance in the country.
Rallying against Intolerance

Overall, however the condition for minorities in India remains precarious. Leading film stars, who happen to Muslim, such as Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, have time and again spoken about how the country is getting more intolerant. However they are getting bullied for speaking with Apps being uninstalled & calls for films being boycotted ! 

There are other horrors on display too. A Hindu radical (Wahabi variety) insulted the Prophet Mohammad  leading to peaceful protests by Muslim community throughout the country.  Despite extreme provocations, the community remained totally peaceful while merely demanding death against the Hindu radical, for blasphemy.

Peaceful Protests

Other disturbing signs of Islamophobia are also creeping in. Hitherto unreported incidents like this are somehow creeping into the mainstream -thereby leading to online backlash against the peaceful community. The silence of bigger media houses in such cases is appreciated but one wonders if that can be trusted for much longer. Secondly, the amount of Faking News type reports coming up in the Indian newspapers of radicalisation of young Indian Muslims is creating a false narrative. From the case of twitter warrior Mehdi Masroor , to toilet cleaning ISIS warrior Areeb Majeeb; from the disclosure of the name of the South Asian head of Al Qaeda Sanaul Haq to the unfortunate arrest of Al Qaeda operative Maulavi Abdur Rehman - there is a constant stream of vilification that is ongoing and this keeps providing fodder to the Bhakts and Sanghis.

Aah, yes the main problem facing the country is not radical Islam or Islamic terrorism - which as we described earlier is quite nationalistic in it's outlook. Rather it is these damn Bhakts that are the source of all and every evil. However a most wonderful development has now taken place. With the efforts of progressive, secular leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyar, Salman Khurshid & Sudheendra Kulkarni - India's PM has now been forced into talks with Pakistan, And the best part is that this will provide much needed chastening to these damn Bhakts.
He has already taken the first stab at that by announcing dialogue suddenly. His hardline Hindu nationalist followers on social media and hot-headed TV news anchors — who have been building up anti-Pakistan sentiment in India and making the PM risk-averse so far — do not quite know how to react at the moment. The idea now should be to sustain the stupor of his bhakts and socialise them to the imperatives of statecraft through an active India-Pakistan process.
This will help Modi domestically — if he so wishes — as he has struggled to publicly take on his Sangh parivar allies as they stoke anti-minority sentiment, target liberals and pursue aggressive anti-beef campaigns. Anti-Pakistan discourse in the public sphere is often generated with Indian Muslims in mind to stigmatize them in society. Sustained dialogue with Pakistan can help address this as it starves the bhakts a bit of the oxygen that strained ties offered them so far. The bhakts can now pursue an anti-Muslim agenda only with the full knowledge that it embarrasses the PM they admire.
Throughout this blog, I have quoted the leading intellectual MoDawah and let us end with this final piece of wisdom from him, as we look to bring back lost tolerance to India.

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