Muslims in India and Kashmir face systemic violence: Welcome Ramadan
Hindutva to India is what Zionism is to “Israel." It is an ideology that seeks to establish a state controlled by none but Hindus – a form of ethnic absolutism.
Let's start with a bit of political psychology.
Other than the fact that the Hindutva population in India are a majority with a minority complex – of the 10 stages of genocide, one can say the Indian government is somewhere between stage 3 and 5, 'discrimination' and 'organization.'
The 80% of the Indian population that ascribes to Hinduism cries “enough is enough” when it comes to the 14% Muslim population. That's 1.3 billion Hindus to 200 million Indian Muslims. The Muslim population in India has been subjected to anti-Muslim laws since India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, assumed office.
Hindu or not, those who hold supremacist ideologies are likely to hold feelings of constant threat of the “other", to continue to embody the role of the victim in conflict, and to translate such feelings of threat into legitimized, systemic racism and dicrimination - stage 3. Or, even worse, legitimized sectarian violence - stage 5.
Modi, who holds Hindutva convictions which entail a supremacist, right-wing form of Hindu nationalism, passed a plethora of laws that aim at marginalizing and restricting Muslims in India, depriving them of their most basic rights. In other words, Hindutva to India is what Zionism is to “Israel". It is an ideology that seeks to establish a state controlled by none but Hindus – a form of ethnic absolutism.
The oppression, and the continuation of it
Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party – the BJP – passed laws aimed at restricting Muslims from eating the food they enjoy and excluding them from urban planning, trade, changing their personal status, and more. From 2014 till today, Indian Muslims can be persecuted for as little as possessing meat. They are required to present an affidavit of their religious affiliation upon any purchase of property (apartheid much?), and Muslim men not only couldn’t divorce their wives but they would also be prosecuted for doing so.
The latest in Modi’s adventures of suppressing Muslims further is banning the hijab – particularly in educational institutions – which have set Muslim women to choose between their religion and education, two essential artifacts of any given identity. The ban on the hijab, which started with one school prohibiting hijabis from attending classes, caught onto other areas and regions, threatening hijabi Indians' mobility and daily activities nationwide.
Women, in almost every conflict throughout history, stand hostage in the crosshairs of hostilities. Killing is the least that could happen when rape and harassment are available tools of war.
Rana Ayyub, a Muslim Indian journalist who reports on human rights violations in her home country, testifies to the ongoing harassment of not only Muslims but also any journalist that criticizes Modi’s regime. While Indian Muslims experience racism once, Indian Muslim women experience it twice and thrice, with threats of rape and sexual harassment involved. Ayyub, among many other activists and journalists, had their faces photoshopped in pornographic videos on Indian apps used to “sell women to an auction.”
As Muslims around the world enter the heart of the holy month of Ramadan, what is supposed to be a festive period for peace and spiritual cleansing became a test of patience.
Many of those who I’ve personally requested to interview declined in fear of retaliation. One apologized that he could not answer, “I have 6 sisters and I am only one brother.”
Indian law enforcement has been intimidating journalists and whistleblowers, thus the numerous activists on the ground decided to decline.
I was lucky to have one news editor and activist, based in India, narrate some experiences on the condition of anonymity.
Addressing the situation of women, Banjeet – we’ll call him that – echoed the constant harassment they are facing, “Hindu seers are openly giving rape threats to Muslim women while the administration and the courts are mere bystanders. A Hindu priest, Bajrangdas Muni, openly threatened to rape Muslim women in front of a mosque while the policemen stood silently.”
In a video that circulated on social media, one Hindutva openly threatened to rape and kidnap Muslim women on a microphone after which pundits and zealots started hailing – a bizarre form of violent groupthink. The incident occurred in front of a mosque at the beginning of the holy month.
Hindutva goon delivering rape and kidnap threat of Muslim women to a Muslim locality in the presence of police in front of a mosque in Khairabad, Sitapur on 2nd Apr 2022, 2 PM.— Anti-islamophobe (@antiislamophobe) April 7, 2022
#Islamophobia_in_India #Islamophobia #Antiislamophobe pic.twitter.com/07zOFYX3yi
Another similar video of a Hindutva monk spitting rape threats after which bystanders started clapping and cheering also went viral.
One may argue that those are individual acts, but what happened was that the words were delivered in front of police guards.
Open rape threat to Muslim women by a Hindu Monk. This is Modi's new India and the clappers are our future! pic.twitter.com/g5JhCkrzgh— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) April 8, 2022
Banjeet commented, “While those giving hate speeches are out on bail and continue with their speeches, Muslim activists and journalists are still in jail for over a year now, although the charge sheet against them is frivolous. There seems no end to this hatred."
“The fine social fabric of India is surviving on Muslim tolerance.”
Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, many stories and incidents have risen of extremists destroying Muslim livelihoods throughout areas like Karnataka, where local produce, vendors, and shops are either burned down or vandalized.
Nabi Saab, a watermelon seller, had been selling watermelon on the streets for 15 years with no complications until a few days ago, Hindutvas attacked his cart, smashing all his watermelons on the ground.
Muslim push cart vendors targeted outside Hanuman Temple in Dharwad. Sri Ram Sene members vandalize & destroy watermelon & other fruits.Ram Sene says #Muslim vendors shouldn't do business outside temples. Cops present at the location did nothing to stop the vandalism #Karnataka pic.twitter.com/gu0pCjt0lj— Harish Upadhya (@harishupadhya) April 9, 2022
To merely exist as a Muslim in India is a risk; to be female, to sell fruits to make a living, or even to pray at a local mosque.
Just hundreds of young men brandishing swords and grinding away to trance music in front of a mosque.— Pieter Friedrich (@FriedrichPieter) April 12, 2022
What could go wrong?#IndianMuslimGenocideAlert
In Ramadan, the situation gets even worse.
“There is an uneasy calm. Time and again you hear stories about mobs targeting Muslim businesses. Even the administration has joined in. For instance, south Delhi Mayor Mukesh Suryan came out with an official diktat that meat shops will remain closed during the Hindu festival of Navratri. This means Muslims will not be able to sell or consume meat of any kind during these nine days. Besides, Hindus who eat meat will also be disallowed from purchasing it during this period, massively hitting Muslim business,” explained Banjeet.
“Attempts are being made to enforce a social boycott of Muslims through various means. At the start of the month, Muslims were not allowed to set up businesses at the site of a Hindu festival fair in Karnataka. Although they had been setting up shops for all these years, they were prevented from doing so this year.”
What is making matters far more difficult is the hijab ban. In January, 6 university students launched protests after a governmental educational institution, based in Udupi, forced an ultimatum that either they remove their headscarves or they stop attending classes.
“While there was no objection to girl students wearing Hijab to schools, this matter rose suddenly in the southern state of Karnataka. The brave girls took the matter to court that decided that ‘Hijab was not essential part of Islam’. The girls refused to sit for exams without their Hijab, but the government did not relent. Hijab is just the beginning of what is to follow for Muslims as far as religious freedom is concerned,” said Banjeet, knowing that Indians have been dealing with the situation as peacefully as possible so far.
“Muslims have been tolerant ever since 2014. They have largely avoided getting into confrontation despite repeated provocation,” Banjeet said, stressing, “It is the Muslim women who have taken the fight to the government every now and then.”
In 2019, the Indian Parliament proposed a citizenship amendment law that would check the “Indian-ness” of its citizens. After the law was passed, New Delhi mass-checked the identities of its citizens – a law disguised as a segregative, isolative measure against Muslims – and left 2 million Muslims in northeast India in 2021 at the mercy of becoming stateless, despite that they have lived their entire lives in the country. Many of the Indian Muslims who did not find their names on the list of citizenship faced the risk of being thrown into detention or a prison camp.
“Muslim women staged sit-ins in different parts of the country. It was only disbanded due to the pandemic, and the government had to shelve the project. Yesterday, women in the state of Uttar Pradesh marched on the streets demanding the arrest of Hindu seer Bajrangdas Muni. From the earlier trends, this will soon spread to the rest of India and the government will be forced to symbolically arrest the priest and put him in jail till protests fizzle out,” Banjeet said.
Kashmir, a piece of heaven burning down
In the north – Kashmir – where violence has become a normal part of the population’s day, different stories are told. The genocide and dehumanization here have already reached levels 9 and 10: extermination and denial, where people are actively eliminated and the government pretends it doesn't exist.
The conflict in Kashmir dates back to 1947. Kashmir was an independent state before the British empire gave it away to India. New Delhi only tightened its stronghold on the region and tore apart every hope from its people of getting their land back.
Part of the Indian government's strategy is the engagement in processes to change the demographic nature of the land, with the aim of integrating Kashmir into India. By default, that would mean suppressing the Muslim-majority area to turn into another springboard for right-wing Hinduism.
Modi even passed a law that would allow anyone from India to buy plots of land in Kashmir, in addition to a new law that only permanent residents could be allowed to own property there.
The ongoing genocide of Kashmiris will mean that as long as people continue to be eliminated, land plots will eventually cede to Hindutvas.
I interviewed a journalist based in the Middle East, originating from Kashmir, Syed Zafar Mehdi.
Mehdi spoke on the situation in Kashmir during Ramadan: "The climate of fear, panic, uncertainty, vulnerability – something that never changes," he said. "The region’s biggest mosque remained shut for 30 weeks since the controversial move by New Delhi to strip the disputed Himalayan region of its semi-autonomous status in August 2019."
"The doors of the mosque were opened last month, just before the month of Ramadan, following the massive global outcry. But earlier this week, more than a dozen people were arrested and charged under a stringent preventive detention law for allegedly shouting pro-freedom slogans inside the mosque during Friday prayers."
"Just before the holy month commenced, 8 young men were arrested under an anti-terror law for raising similar slogans during a Muharram procession almost seven months ago. They are forced to spend days fasting behind the bars and their families are forced to run from pillar to post for justice. There are many such harrowing stories that the world perhaps doesn’t know about, or doesn’t care about. Every family in Kashmir has a story to tell – stories full of pain and trauma."
"Kashmir has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most militarized zone, with the presence of around one million Indian troops. More than 70,000 people have been killed since the anti-Indian insurgency erupted in the region in the late 1980s. The monstrous presence of Indian forces has also led to rampant human rights abuses, which have in turn led to cycles of street protests and violence. Indian forces have for years occupied schools, gardens, stadiums, cinema halls, hill stations, and even factories."
How will Muslims in Kashmir and India deal with this social crisis when all peace and endurance are exhausted? Will they maintain a peaceful position, or will they eventually fight back? The situation is very quickly slipping into the reality of a political crisis, given the systemic nature of the discrimination.
Protests have not erupted yet, but the anger build-up could explode on the way to demanding peace.