False claims and honest convictions

Hundreds of radicalised Hindu extremists, including important representatives of some of the most prestigious religious institutions of Hinduism and elected lawmakers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), assembled in Haridwar earlier last week to participate in a Dharam Sansad or Religion Parliament. They stood in unison to take an oath to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra even if it meant killing (Muslims). A plethora of speakers – one after another – took the podium to convince and announce to the Hindus the need to take up arms against Muslims. One speaker representing the Hindu Mahasabha, Pooja Shakun Pandey, even confessed the roadmap to building a Hindu Rashtra: killing 2 million Muslims.

This is only the latest among several such gatherings that have taken place over the last two years, in different parts of India, where speakers have openly – and without any repercussions – called for Muslim genocide. As usual, everybody from the ruling BJP government including the Prime Minister have maintained their characteristic silence. However, apart from token condemnations on social media, the leading opposition parties in India have done little. The police have maintained an outstanding record of not letting their uniforms and duties as policemen come in the way of their wishful blindness to crimes committed and conspired publicly by the Hindu nationalists. No arrests have been made so far. The organisers have even announced plans of other such Dharma Sansads in other parts of India.

Muslims in India – especially those living in close vicinity of Hindu localities – are naturally very fearful. Having lost all hopes from the state to provide the most basic of their human rights, they have no one to turn to. Even the established and erstwhile vocal champions of human rights from the Hindu society have either stayed completely silent providing their sleazy consent to the calls of violence or have yet again resorted to downplaying the importance of such events by labelling them as mere election theatrics. In doing so, several even quickly bought a doctored video of Hyderabad (member of Parliament) MP and president of All-India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaisi that falsely showcased him threatening Hindus. The video being debunked by fact-checking websites couldn’t prevent some prominent opponents of the BJP from equating the Hyderabad MP to the hateful speakers of the Dharma Sansad.

In November this year, Muslim comic Munawwar Faruqi confessed on his Instagram that 12 of his shows were canceled due to pressure and threats from Hindu nationalist groups. Faruqi had announced in the same post that he might leave comedy altogether. Few days later, a far-right Hindu propaganda website known for targeting Muslim activists and journalists published an opinion piece titled, “Hello liberals, Munawwar Faruqui’s head is still attached to his torso, and Khans are still superstars, so cut the crap”. As disgusting as the title was, the content was equally vile. The response from several leading voices who identify themselves as liberals, unfortunately, has been exactly manifesting the above-mentioned title. Evidently, by maintaining the criminal silence, and wilfully downplaying the seriousness of the genocidal calls, they are albeit subtly saying the same thing: Hello Muslims, majority of you are still alive and not lynched to death, and Owaisi is still not in jail, so cut the crap! There is no other way to look at the criminal silence and lack of action from the Hindu society in general and Hindu leaders in particular against the hate that is being peddled in their name.

Hindu politicians, leaders, and writers who otherwise have been consistently vocal in their opposition to BJP and fighting Modi’s authoritarianism have all gone silent when their voices particularly matter the most. What it suggests is that their slogans of saving India, combating hate with love, and rescuing democracy are performances at worst or false claims at best. The false claims of serving justice, ensuring secularism and equality while consistently flirting with or consciously downplaying the dangers of the different shades of Hindu nationalists have been a subject of research for scholars for years now. Those admittedly against the BJP are often seen and heard making claims to challenge Hindu nationalism. More often these claims are only whispered to Muslim ears to keep their Muslim vote base intact. But mostly these are lies that they keep repeating without any promising act to follow up.

The deliberate silence from the political class as well as the Hindu society at large against the calls of Muslim genocide sends a deeper message to Muslims. Although political commentators might want Muslims to believe that the silence is strategic, it translates into a feeling of abandonment and distrust with the idea of Indian citizenship. India’s Hindu society has allowed their temples and other religious institutions to be used as nurseries of Hindu radicalism. Unless the faithful reassert their hold over these institutions and use its platforms to propagate the message of peace, justice and brotherhood – any claim of support or solidarity is meaningless.

On the other side, with the ongoing and unending series of attacks and demonisation, and the bloodied history of Hindutva militants, we already know that these terrorists are actually capable of what they claim. Their conviction to otherise, demonise, and torture Muslims and other minorities are celebrated and incentivised. For Muslims to have experienced a targeted attack on their identity and bodies from offices and institutions of power, and having to witness events like Haridwar being carried on without any repercussions – it is not an exaggeration when they call it a brewing genocide. Unfortunately, Muslims in India are left to themselves with false claims of the secularists and honest convictions of the Hindu militants.

Sharjeel Usmani is a Muslim activist and he lives in Azamgarh.