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Hate against Muslims in India, whether on the streets or in Parliament, is the same

September 30, 2023 at 12:53 pm

Activists and supporters of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, an Indian Islamic ogranisation, hold India’s national flags and placards as they take part in a ‘Peace March’ protest rally in New Delhi. [Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images]

Hate is the chief ingredient of everyday discourse on the streets and the country’s socio-political system to allow the Hindutva forces to continue to control the harvest.

In a historic moment, the new Parliament held its first session, debating the success of India’s moon mission, when a senior lawmaker from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) sparked outrage and hurled Islamophobic profanities, communal slurs and swear words.

On Thursday, 21 September, The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ’s MP from South Delhi, Ramesh Bidhuri, crossed all limits of bigotry and hate inside Parliament during a debate, setting a new low with his vile verbal Islamophobic attack against opposition Muslim MP Danish Ali, calling him a pimp, extremist, terrorist, Mulla, Katwa and even threatened to see him outside.

“Mulla” is a pejorative word used against Muslims in India. “Katwa” is a slur targeting circumcision in Muslims.

Ali responded: “If this has happened to me in Parliament, imagine what is happening to ordinary Muslims all over the country.”

This is a common tale of Muslim life in India these days. A Muslim MP is targeted in Parliament, on the street, vigilantes kill Muslims by lynching and police are busy providing extra-judicial action against Muslims by encounter killings and bulldozing properties. The majority subscribing to the hate culture agreed with the BJP’s verbal attack.

Adding insult to injury, two former Union Cabinet ministers sitting behind Bidhuri laughed throughout his hate speech.

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Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressed regret over the comments, albeit with an “if”, stating: “I express regret if the opposition member is hurt by the remarks.” The BJP cannot even condemn it unequivocally. The BJP just issued a show-cause notice to explain his unparliamentary language within 15 days.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla warned Bidhuri on Friday of “strict action” if he repeated such behaviour in the future. The speaker who suspends MPs on frivolous grounds or trivial issues has ignored this case.

At least this triggered anger among the opposition parties and social media users and a demand for strict action was made. The opposition wrote to the speaker that the matter should be sent to the Parliamentary Privilege Committee.

MP Mahua Moitra rightly said on the abuse of Muslims: “The Other Backward Class (OBC) is an integral part of BJP culture—most now see nothing wrong with it.”

All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and MP from Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi, predicted: “The day is not far when there will be a mob lynching of a Muslim in the Parliament of the country.”

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi met with Ali to provide him with moral support and to cast the tide of hate aside by “nafrat ke bazaar mein mohabbat ki dukan,” meaning countering hate with love. Later, Gandhi asserted that all such tactics by the BJP were distraction tools for the upcoming elections.

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The BJP tried to frame a narrative that Ali provoked Bidhuri with unsavoury conduct and continuously heckled Bidhuri, instigating him to lose his calm and composure in the heat of the argument.

They added that Ali made an objectionable and blasphemous remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him “Neech” (a casteist slur) and this triggered MP Bidhuri: “It was enough for any patriotic public representative to lose his calm and fall into his trap by speaking unsavoury remarks.”

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey submitted a written complaint about Ali using derogatory terms against the speaker. Dubey also said that Ali, Congress, DMK and TMC are habitual offenders and make derogatory comments to provoke BJP MPs. Another BJP MP Ravi Kishan Shukla also complained against Ali for having a habit of heckling and using unparliamentary language.

The BJP’s line of defence is that Ali used casteist slurs against Modi, provoking Bidhuri. Head of the BJP’s IT Cell Amit Malyiya took to social media to defend Bidhuri by saying that his choice of words was in response to Ali, who called Modi “Neech”.

Ali also believes that the BJP now wants his lynching on the street: “They did my verbal lynching in the house…Now they are trying to lynch me outside…”

Modi, who is fond of “Mann ki Baat” (talking from the heart), has decided to employ his stoic silence once again, as he did for the Manipur violence, Mewat violence, female wrestler molestation protests against BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh during his tenure as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), and many such occasions which he deems not worthy of his time.

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The BJP and its leadership know they are loved for their hate for Muslims. Modi came to prominence after the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat. Indian Dalits have lived with this for millennia. It’s a relationship between the powerful and the weak.

It’s not easy to be a Muslim in India

Muslims face slurs daily in every walk of life, whether at school or the office, the street or social media, the police station or any other state institution; it’s all the same. The everyday life of Muslims is fragile and vulnerable.

Muslims face a torrent of abuses for their dietary and religious practices, such as the hijab, namaz, azan or just for being Muslim. Putting despair in Muslims’ enthusiasm is also a tactic to deprive them of their political rights and make them politically impotent. Constantly humiliating them, robbing them of their self-respect and forcing them to accept it and be silent, where will it lead if not into an implosion?

Targeted by manufactured hate and conspiracy theories, Muslims are blamed for the population explosion, the pandemic spread, traitors conspiring against the state, engaging in Jihad against the socio-political and economics of the country, and more. Muslims face open calls for violence and socio-economic boycotts.

At the service of politicians, Hindu godmen are keeping Hindus charged with visceral hate towards Muslims in often conducted “Dharma Sansad” (religious assemblies). Sacred joy oozing out of sermons of hate is used as an opiate to manufacture hatred and capture power.

Hindu religious processions may not be complete without playing loud music, abusing and creating a nuisance in front of a mosque or a Muslim neighbourhood. Any response will meet with a counter-response of bulldozers, encounters and police atrocities.

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The top leadership sets the standards of political participation by setting examples to be followed. In fact, even at the top, there is competition to be exemplary. From Modi to Amit Shah, to state leaders such as Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, Assam CM Hemanta Biswa Sarma and many others, they all continue the hatred with their disparaging remarks.

When hate as a policy comes from the top, it is easy for communal polarisation and political mobilisation. Perpetrators know that they can do it with impunity. That is how cow vigilantes work, or the Institutionalised Riot System: through provocation, action and interpretation work.

Eighty per cent of anti-Muslim hate speech in the first half of 2023 was delivered in BJP-ruled states and is made when an election is near, according to a recent report by Washington-based monitoring group Hindutva Watch.

This is the reason for cow vigilantes engaging in terrorising Muslim men in the cattle trade; security personnel killing Muslims on a train in the name of Modi and CM Yogi; a Hindu procession provoking Muslims in Mewat and leading to a riot near Delhi; a teacher in Muzaffar Nagar’s village asking students to slap a fellow Muslim student; state administration extra-judicially bulldozing properties of Muslims;  police killing men in encounters even more than before and the state passing discriminatory acts such as the Citizenship Amendment Act where all except Muslims are eligible. When Muslims protested against it, they were met with draconian state measures, from incarceration to bulldozing their properties, with the media spewing venom for Muslims.

All this is because of the state’s policy. For this reason, the Genocide Watch group predicted a genocide of Muslims in a report published on 1 March, 2022.

In the name of democracy, majoritarianism is unleashed. More than two hundred million Muslims are caged into this system. Is it justifiable to bypass basic rights and freedom to practice religion and live a life with dignity if majoritarianism in a democracy wishes to do so?

It was hinted that Bidhuri would be rewarded, and after four days, the BJP appointed him key poll duty for Tonk in the upcoming Rajasthan election.

These are symptoms of a larger malaise that no fig leaf can mask.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.