Since Modi became prime minister in 2014, he started implementing the ideology of Hindu nationalism by persecuting Indian Muslims. During his second tenure, he accelerated this agenda; abrogation of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir, continued lockdown in IOK, killing of Kashmiri youth, issuance of a map showing bifurcation of the Kashmir region into two union territories, and introduction of new domicile law to further alter the demographic and geographic status of the IOK against the majority of Kashmiris are notable. Hundreds have reportedly died in IOK due to continued lockdowns and deployment of a large number of forces who stop journalists’ entry in that region. Many more might have died due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, encouraged by the fanatic Premier Modi, Hindu extremist outfits such as BJP, RSS VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, including other similar parties, have been promoting religious and ethnic chauvinism. Muslims are being violently targeted by radical Hindus. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stated on the record: “Bharat is Hindu Rashtra and all Bharatiyas are Hindus.” Indian Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) speaks of this design. The CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens) are mainly against the Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It aims to strip off 200 million Indian Muslims of their citizenship.
Since December last year, mass protests, even by the moderate Hindus, have been taking place across India, which resulted into killing of more than 200 persons and injuring 800 – mostly Muslims by police and Hindu extremists; RSS and BJP have burnt properties of Muslims, including houses and mosques and compelled them to leave the areas. Corona became another pretext to increase the hardships as health ministry claimed that Muslims are spreading this virus. So, Hindu extremists set off a series of assaults against Muslims across India, which sparked criticism worldwide.
Al Jazeera television and NYT newspaper reported: “Muslims have been beaten up, nearly lynched, run out of their neighborhoods or attacked in mosques Hindu extremists are scapegoating the country’s entire Muslim population for deliberately spreading the virus through “corona jihad Indian hospitals segregates Muslim and Hindu coronavirus patients In what many are calling a case of “apartheid” during a global pandemic made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients. It is a decision of the government”.
New Delhi accused the Tablighi Jamaat of spreading coronavirus through congregations; Indian news website www.theprint.in points out that “COVID is an excuse to push Indian Muslims out of informal sector jobs What Muslims are effectively facing now is a new form of concerted, deliberate economic marginalisation through blatant lies linking the community to the virus Having been largely shut out of the formal sector, many Muslims depend on the informal sector and self-employment for their livelihood”.
Under the title “It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then Came the Coronavirus”, Billy Perrigo elaborates in the Time magazine: “The Islamophobic hashtags began circulating shortly after the news broke in late March. Indian authorities had linked dozens of cases of COVID-19 to a Muslim missionary group that held its annual conference in Delhi Coronavirus fears and religious tension was already at a fever pitch in India videos [Indian fake news on social media] falsely claiming Islamophobia has been transposed onto the coronavirus issue. Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times Hindu nationalists left 36 Muslims dead in Delhi at a time when the Muslim minority – 200 million people in a nation of 1.3 billion – feels increasingly targeted by the ruling Hindu nationalists One of the key features of anti-Muslim sentiment in India has been the idea that Muslims themselves are a kind of infection in the body politic the coronavirus is just one more opportunity to cast Muslims as dangerous.” Notably, following secret instructions of the Modi government’s top officials, doctors are not paying attention to Muslim patients, affected by a coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Indian MP Tejasvi Surya’s remarks against Arab women added fuel to the fire and further exposed the anti-Muslim policy of Modi. His remarks have landed in a row for a tweet he made with an objectionable comment about Arab women, saying, “95 percent Arab women never had orgasms in the last few hundred years”. The tweet was highlighted by various prominent citizens of Arab nations. Among the first to call out, Surya was Dubai-based businesswoman Noora Al-Ghurair, who said “pity the upbringing that has taught him to disrespect women”. She also warned him against “travelling to Arab lands if he is ever bestowed a foreign ministry”.
Surya’s remark was picked up by prominent Arab Twitter handles who tagged PM Modi demanding his expulsion from parliament. Influential thinkers and the members of the UAE royal family are also fearlessly reacting to India’s growing Islamophobia. According to the Gulf News, “India’s carefully cultivated Gulf policy has been at risk of unraveling over the past fortnight, with the OIC, Kuwait government, a UAE royal princess, and the Arab intelligentsia decrying hate speeches by Indian nationals accusing the Tablighi Jamaat of deliberately exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic as well as a crude tweet by a BJP MP on the sexual impulses of Arab women several Indian nationals are being caught and punished for inciting religious intolerance and spewing hate against Muslims”.
Al Jazeera said: “Did those who commit crimes against humanity against Muslims in India and violate their rights think that Muslims will remain silent about these crimes and do not move politically, legally and economically against them? A statement by the general secretariat of Kuwait Council of Ministers said: “Earlier, on April 18, the OIC had issued a statement, urging India to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in the country people in the Gulf countries felt outraged over the way Indian Muslims were being blamed for the coronavirus pandemic. About 8.5 million Indians live and work in Gulf countries, a significant number of Hindus. At least six Hindus working in Gulf have lost their jobs charged for their social media posts [against Muslims]. The level of hubris of Hindutva fascists shocked people throughout the world, changing previously held opinions.
Princess Hend al-Qassimi, a member of UAE’s royal family, warned the racist and discriminatory Indians in the Gulf that they will be fined and made to leave the country. There has been an unprecedented surge among Arabs openly criticizing the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in India. Prominent activists turned to social media and highlighted the ill-treatment of Muslims. Many are decrying the killing of Muslims without reason, while others have said the assault by RSS on Muslims is unacceptable and have labelled it a “terrorist” group that should be banned in the Gulf. A civil campaign has been started to highlight the malicious propaganda against Muslims that may affect business relations with India. Kuwait has appealed to OIC to intervene and urge India to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.
It is regrettable that Modi-led BJP, VHP and RSS, including other Hindu extremist parties are leading the racist Hindutva supremacists against Muslims in IOK and other parts of India. In fact, it is a primary part of Modi’s belief system to persecute Muslims. So, this anti-Muslim bigotry has been internationalized. Indian rulers have politicized COVID-19 by accusing the Muslims and thus created a big divide. Hence, coronavirus may die, but the virus of communal disharmony will be hard to kill when this is over. Nonetheless, despite criticism at home and abroad, anti-Muslim nationalism continues unabated in India.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations