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India's secular fabric at risk

GreenWatch Desk Op-Ed 2024-06-21, 4:47pm

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"In recent years, the experience of Muslims has not been good. This is happening for the first time in this country that no Muslim is an MP (from BJP) in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. No Muslim is a minister in the cabinet. This is a wrong thing that the BJP has done. Our (Congress) government was the reflection of the whole nation. But they want to change the identity of the nation with their slogan of 'Hind, Hindu, Hindutva.' This is not good." -- Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP

Such is the fate of Muslims in India, whose number is more than 20 crores and account for 15% of total Indian population. The country will be run by BJP under Narendra Modi’s leadership for the third time in a row. Narendra Modi announced his cabinet of 71 ministers and state ministers a few days ago. None among them is a Muslim. And how can there be a Muslim in the cabinet since none of the 240 BJP MPs elected to the new Parliament is a Muslim. Not a single Muslim was nominated by the party.
Speaking in front of a large crowd in the country’s western Rajasthan state, Modi said if voted into power, the country’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress, would distribute the country’s wealth among “infiltrators” and “those who have more children,” in apparent reference to the Muslim community.
“Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators? Would you accept this?” Modi said.
There is little wonder that Muslims shunned his divisive politics, while Modi’s acolytes and his Hindutva based party did its best to keep the Muslims at bay. They would have perhaps liked it better if someway the Muslims were kept out of the Indian franchise. But they could not, which is why the Muslims still managed to scramble to win 24 Parliamentary seats either by joining Congress or other smaller political parties. Only 24 out of a total of 543 parliamentary seats are peanuts (less than 5%), but it is still a showing and a proof that given a chance, Muslims can account for some political strength. And that is what Narendra Modi, and his Hindu nationality obsessed party are afraid of, reports DT.
Neither Modi nor his party want a multifaith, all-inclusive, secular India. They want an India where a single faith with its strident Hindutva will establish a new theocracy calling to establish a state going back to the mythical days. They want to foist the flag of Hindutva for all of India. India is for Hindus, and no other faith. At least so it seems from the propaganda war and actions of BJP and Modi.
The most stunning loss for BJP was in Ayudha where early this year Narendra Modi opened the much controversial Ram Mandir with great fanfare
Explaining the BJP mission, Zack Beuachamp in a Vox newsletter wrote, “The construction of a temple in Ayodhya is the exclamation point on an agenda that has also included revoking the autonomy long provided to the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, creating new citizenship and immigration rules biased against Muslims, and rewritten textbooks to whitewash Hindu violence against Muslims from Indian history.”
It is no wonder as once vaunted to be an all-India party, BJP does not have a single Muslim in its cabinet, nor does it have a single Muslim parliamentarian among its 240 new members of parliament. The only Muslim BJP member in Rajya Sabha (upper house) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, resigned from BJP earlier this year.
But can Narendra Modi and his party continue to suppress 15% of its population and keep on their divisive politics to rule India? Most certainly not.
Already, the tide has turned against them. The party’s vaunted claim voiced by Modi during the last election campaign, that BJP will capture more than 400 seats in Lok Sabha, went down like a punctured balloon. Instead of the expected landslide, the party lost sixty-three seats this election, forcing Modi to seek support from his allies to form the government this year.
BJP faced a trouncing in many of the states that it had done well in before. The most stunning loss for BJP was in Ayudha where early this year Narendra Modi opened the much controversial Ram Mandir with great fanfare. BJP’s loss in the last elections was a denunciation of divisive politics of the party and its attempt to suppress the minorities.
“It’s rejection of a politics of hate,” said Rajeev Bhargava, director of the Institute of Indian Thought at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. “Ordinary Hindus and Muslims have lived together peacefully, and they don’t like divisions being created,” he said.
India is a vast country which has survived many assaults, foreign and domestic, because of the plurality of faiths, and unity in its diversity. It survives, despite attempts to create divisions among its people on the basis of religion, caste, or ethnicity, as it has retained its democratic values and adherence to these values.
Muslims in India will survive because of their strength in numbers and their adherence to democracy despite many assaults on them. BJP may not welcome them to their party, but as Indians they do not need any particular party’s patronage to find their place in India. Today they may have only 24 out of 543 seats in the parliament, but with unity among them and the right leadership this number can grow proportionate to their population in India.
Democracy works best when all voices join together to oppose attempts in spreading politics of hate and the denigration of communities through faith-based discrimination.
Ziauddin Choudhury has worked in the higher civil service of Bangladesh early in his career, and later for the World Bank in the US.