Corpses lie in the street, families are too traumatized to leave their homes, hospitals are overcrowded, neighbors are up in arms and police officers taunt wounded victims. This was the aftermath of the Delhi riots, three nights worth of religious violence between Muslims and Hindus in Eastern New Delhi over the recent Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) enacted. According to a New York Times article, this was the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in India in years.
In the wake of these riots, many news sources and critics have reduced this violence into a mere religious conflict fueled by the measures taken by an anti-Muslim, Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Modi. However, these riots are much more complex. They must be analyzed through a historical lens, dating back to the partition of 1947. In doing so, it is clear that Modi’s CAA is not anti-Islamic and the origin of these unfortunate riots can be better understood.
During the British Raj, 25% of the population were Muslims who enjoyed the reservation of legislative seats and separate electorates which protected their status as the largest minority in the colony. In 1940, politician Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, did believe in a Muslim-Hindu coexistence but he feared that Indian Muslims, being a minority population, would lose their rights to the majority Hindu population. For this reason, he proposed and pushed for the creation of a separate state to accommodate Indian Muslims. This state became what we know as the present-day Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
At the time of this partition, the percentage of non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan was 23%. Today, that percentage has shrunk to about 3%. Why the huge drop? Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of the parliament of Pakistan, claims that Muslim denominations like the Shias, Ahmadis who have been declared non-Muslim and non-Muslim minorities like Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been bombed in their neighborhood and forced to convert to Islam. Under the CAA, the BJP believes that these minorities that are being religiously persecuted not only in Pakistan but also in Bangladesh and Afghanistan can gain asylum in India, a secular country. The reason for “excluding” Muslim minorities that are religiously persecuted is not because the BJP is against Islam or believes that they are second-hand citizens. It is because, according to the Pew Research Center, there are fifty Muslim-majority countries in the world. The Muslim minorities escaping persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have a greater chance of protection from at least one of these Islamic states in the nearby Middle East. Furthermore, at the time of the partition, Pakistan was created on a religious basis as an Islamic state. So, it makes sense that Muslims seeking refuge and protection would do so in a country built for the representation and preservation of Islam. On the contrary, there is not a single country that is Hindu, Jain, Parsi or Sikh (religions of individuals given amnesty under the CAA) that individuals of these religions fleeing persecution can seek protection from. For this reason, the BJP extended amnesty to these displaced individuals with no place to go.
Furthermore, the dramatic growth of the Muslims in India from the time of the partition to present-day reflects India’s long-standing secularity and the preservation of the Muslim population in the country. A 1951 census reveals that there were 45,000,000 Muslims in India at the time. Today, 14% of the Indian population is Muslim, which is approximately 193,000,000 individuals. The following figure even suggests the progressive growth of Muslims in India to 311,000,000 individuals by 2050. This demonstrates that India and the current BJP are not anti-Islam or determined to degrade Muslim individuals in society.
If this is the case, then critics may question, why was there awful violence between Hindus and Muslims? The question is valid especially since much of the reported violence included Hindus lynching Muslims and burning down their mosques in India. This violence and its aftermath, however, can be attributed to power-hungry Hindu nationalistic leaders who deliberately create hatred amongst the population. Kapil Mishra, known for his outspoken views, passionately demanded the police to remove the demonstrators (against the CAA) or he and his followers would do it themselves. Mishra, an upper-caste Hindu politician, directly called upon nationalist supporters and publicly greenlighted acts of Hindu extremism against innocent Muslims who believed that the CAA was against their religion. The result: Hindu nationalists took out their anger toward these protesters on any Muslim in sight, leading to perpetual bloodshed.
This Hindu extremism of a select few is not permissible and is responsible for the crippling outcome of the Delhi riots. However, this religious extremism of certain leaders should not be used to label the entire BJP as anti-Islamic or India as a non-secular country.
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Mehak Sharma is a campus contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.