Modi’s promotion of religious divide in India cannot be overlooked

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In January 2022, a BBC News article reported on a school in the Indian state of Karnataka that barred girls from attending classes if they chose to wear a hijab. Due to this rule, six students have begun protesting and photos of these students standing outside the entrance to their school have gone viral. 

It is no secret that Islamophobia is extremely prevalent in India. The ruling government party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has constantly divided the nation with his polarizing views. In 2019, Modi enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which ensures that India paves a path for citizenship for undocumented refugees of all minority faiths besides Islam. Coupled with the National Registry of Citizens (NRC), which provides a list of all legal Indian citizens based on certain documents in the state of Assam, 1.9 million people were declared stateless, the majority of whom were Muslim, because they were unable to prove they were legal citizens.  

In addition, in 2019, Modi’s government revoked the area of Kashmir’s autonomous status, giving the government more control over the Muslim-majority area. Giving the central government more authority over Kashmir has also led experts to believe that there could be a future demographic shift in India’s only Muslim-majority state. 

Prior to the official change in status, the government heightened security presence in the area, placed restrictions on movement and suspended communications for two months showing the government’s blatant disregard for human rights. The United Nations even expressed concern over the internet shutdown at the time. 

Through his actions, Modi has proven that he is a dangerous, bigoted leader who is dividing the nation with his polarizing views. The district of Udupi in the state of Karnataka, where the school has banned girls from attending class while wearing a hijab, is known as a stronghold of the BJP; this is not the first instance that Muslims in the area have faced Islamophobia and hate speech simply due to their beliefs. Just one day before the school first began barring women wearing hijabs from attending classes, a group of boys wearing saffron shawls — saffron being seen as a Hindu symbol — went to the school to protest against Muslim women attending the school wearing hijabs. 

Yes, this religious divide did not appear just after Modi was elected — clearly, the sentiment has been present for years before. However, Modi has given a voice to those who believe in Hindu supremacy; since he was elected, the BJP has been spreading divisive language and an “us versus them” philosophy. Since he was elected in 2014, mobs made up of Hindu zealots have gone after Muslims suspected of killing cows, hate speech spread like wildfire and Modi’s critics who voiced their concern online were swiftly shutdown. 

In a New York Times article, retired historian Adithya Mukherjee was quoted saying, “In plain language, this is what we now call communal fascists.” Mukherjee went on, saying that India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru once warned that majority Hindu communalism would be to blame if fascism ever came to India.  

Modi’s religious divisiveness is not solely limited to perpetuating Islamophobic ideals either; Modi’s actions, such as anti-conversion laws, have also created tensions with Christian communities as well. Attacks against Christian communities in India have also been on the rise, with anti-Christian vigilantes attacking schools, churches and worshippers. In 2021, there were 305 attacks against Christian populations and their places of worship in India, with human rights activists fearing that some attacks may have gone unreported. Reports have also shown that government officials have aided in these attacks against Christian communities and Hindu extremists have justified the attacks, claiming they are protecting Hindus from being converted.  

It is clear that polarization and religious hostility is endangering many populations in India. Modi’s blatant disregard for these minority populations is horrifying and immensely harmful. His wealth of extremist supporters is also rather unwavering, working to further creating divides among the population regardless of the consequences. 

When Modi ascended to his position as prime minister, he came with promises for the economy and education. Yet rather than completing his promises for the economy and achieving his GDP target, he has instead perpetuated hatred and bigoted views, making decisions serving to harm certain populations. Modi’s government has done nothing but amplified the voices of extremists, creating an extremely harmful environment for non-Hindus, especially Muslims and Christians. Modi’s government touts the belief that Hindus in India are marginalized and targeted for their religion — which is clearly false. The government’s neglect of minority populations and disregard of human rights cannot be overlooked or brushed aside. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, Modi rode into office promising better jobs. Guess what? It’s India’s goal to create some 6 million jobs over the next six years, and that’s considered a tall order. Meanwhile, the US created 6 million jobs in one year (last year). No wonder India’s youths are desperate.
    It’s never been about the economy for Modi – it’s always been about empowering his Hindutva supporters, as if Hinduism is in any danger in India. The country has been in its weakest point for democracy since the 1970s emergency. Pretty ironic that Modi shares that with Indira Gandhi, daughter of the man he despises.
    Muslim Indians are Indians. For some reason, folks like Modi have made it their life’s goal to prove that Muslims cannot be Indians. They need a reminder that the Muslims in India had a choice – they could have left for the country designated as the home for Muslims in the subcontinent (present-day Pakistan & Bangladesh), but they chose to stay.
    Speaking of Pakistan and Bangladesh, one has to ask – what if the shoe was on the other foot (or in this case, feet)? What if this was happening to Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh? I’ll tell you (not the author of this piece – I mean the generic person) what – it may. Remember what Pres. Obama said about Terry Jones when the latter wanted to burn pages from the Quran? Obama said, “I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We’re already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat that he’s making.” Similarly, whenever Modi and his goons do these stunts, they endanger the lives and livelihoods of Hindus living in Pakistan and Bangladesh (and Pakistani/Bangladeshi Hindus have less power in their countries than Indian Muslims in India). We don’t have to imagine this – something like this really happened. In 1992, a mob of Hindu thugs (and I’m comfortable saying that – I’m Hindu, with my screenname being fake) tore down the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Not only did this lead to violence in India, but in Pakistan & Bangladesh, Hindu communities felt the shock waves. In a tit-for-tat style, Muslim mobs ransacked & razed Hindu temples in both countries, and some dug moats around temples they spared, thus still preventing devotees from worshipping. All of that could happen again. Modi and his so-called devotees need to remember that what they think is helping Lord Rama & Lord Shiva in India could easily terrorize Lord Krishna & Goddess Durga in the rest of the former British Raj.
    I only wish that, even if they didn’t think about humanity, the BJP thought about the lives of Hindus outside of India. And not for nothing, but the US Supreme Court would, without a doubt, side with the students if this case up here (unless it’s a religious school). Modi’s problem is that he doesn’t care – I hate sounding like Lindsey Graham (because Graham didn’t stick to his words when describing someone like this), but Modi is a racist, a xenophobe, and a bigot. You want to know what I think will make India great? Well, tell Modi to go to (fill in the rest).

  2. There is no scenario short of India actually accepting state Hinduism where this could be remotely acceptable. Like his spiritual brother in Ankara, Modi is laying it bare just how much he wants to erode the secular nature of India. What will happen if this law is upheld? For now, Hindu students are also (in some schools) not allowed to wear their coveted scarves. Will Sikh boys and men soon be told that they can’t wear turbans? In France, schools prohibit wearing any religious symbolism – hijabs, crosses (as necklaces, for example), kippahs, and turbans are all banned in schools. France has a strict policy of secularism, so one can see that the policy affects the majority populace (Catholics) just as it affects minorities. There is no possible way that this rule could become law without pushing India further toward that awful, awful path that Pakistan took all those years ago. I am sure that most of Modi’s ministry does not like Zia-ul-Haq, but do they really have any differences? Pakistan continues to suffer from Zia’s overly religious policies. It is my hope that one day, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan can throw that first word off its name, or at least become a secular state otherwise. What a shame it is, to be seeing India go down that same path.

    Some Hindus to this day will say that India shouldn’t have been partitioned, and a nation with a Hindu majority and a (very) large Muslim minority could have existed. Putting Cold War politics aside, the BJP is the embodiment of how that could not be further from the truth. No one – NO ONE – can make a reasonable argument that the BJP sees Hindus and Muslims (and, by extension, adherents of India’s other faiths) as equals. Such a statement is equivalent to saying that Saudi Arabia respects the rights of people of all faiths. Ha.

    If India does choose to embrace Hinduism as its state religion, I can only imagine what sort of democratic backsliding will continue. While I do not condone some of the tactics that Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League have, I will hail them if they can scrap Islam from being Bangladesh’s state religion. If Indians continue to make the same mistakes that all of their neighbors have made, they will only have themselves to blame.

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