Muslims & Hindutva
How would you describe the current state of Hindu-Muslim-relations in India?
Working relationship between ordinary Muslims and ordinary Hindus is still good all over the country but the RSS and its affiliated organisations (Bharartiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and many others) have succeeded in vitiating the atmosphere so much that there is a clear polarisation of society on Hindu-Muslim lines in most parts of the country. Polarisation takes place through disseminating rumours, false claims of all kinds about Muslims (and Christians), publication of unfounded historical claims, claims that Muslims are a pampered minority in India, that they are breeding fast and will soon push Hindus to a minority, attacking Hindu and Muslim couples, working for reconversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism which is called ghar-wapsi [home-coming], social and commercial boycott of Muslims in Hindu majority areas like Gujarat… These are some of their strategies to sharpen polarisation which in turn benefits them politically at the time of elections as Hindus vote them in the belief that they are protecting Hindu interests.
Indian media is talking about a so called “Love Jihad”. What is meant by that?
“Love Jihad” is a recent term coined by Hindutva or RSS family to describe marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women which is an urban phenomenon as men and women mix in schools, colleges and workplaces and some relationships end up into marriages which are frowned upon by both Hindus and Muslims. Even Muslim women are marrying Hindu men which is disliked by the Muslim community but it does not make it a public issue. Hindutvites claim that Muslims are getting money from Gulf countries to ensnare Hindu women with a view to increase Muslim population. No need to tell you that this claim of Gulf or any other support is totally false and baseless. At the same time, Hindutva outfits encourage Hindu males to lure/rape/marry Muslim women. A new campaign called “Beti bachao, bahu lao” [save daughter and bring in a [Muslim] daughter-in-law] has been launched very recently under which Hindus are offered money to do this.
Is there anything like that going on? Do you have some numbers?
We don’t have any numbers but it is not very common and there is no real “Love Jihad” whatsoever.
Why are Hindus fighting a “Love Jihad”?
Those who are spreading this canard are doing it for a political purpose [polarization which leads to electoral gains] and through incessant propaganda they have convinced common Hindus that there is some Muslim conspiracy behind it. Hindus here have total control over both print and electronic media while Muslims are almost totally disempowered as far as media is concerned. Hence Muslim have no voice in media and cannot defend themselves or effectively put across their points of view when such issues are raised. Muslims are voiceless in modern India.
What is the role of the new Modi government in that?
Modi government is the government of the RSS and its affiliates and it does not at all interfere in their activities howsoever illegal they may be. The Modi government has even used the ghar-wapsi (reconversion to Hinduism) programme and propaganda to make a clear suggestion inside and outside Parliament that if you don’t like such programmes, you should support a national law banning conversions (while Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion including freedom of preaching it).
How has life for the Muslim minority in India changed since the BJP victory?
There is no great physical change until now except that RSS and its affiliated outfits feel emboldened and are engaged in continuous low-key violence against Muslims and Christians all over the country. Places of worship and graveyards are being attacked/desecrated routinely, demands are made that loudspeakers be taken off mosques, building new mosques or repairing existing ones is being opposed, school curricula are being revised to include Hindu myths and delete positive references to Islam and Muslim history, Hindutva leaders are saying openly that India will be converted into a hundred percent Hindu country by 2021, that Muslims should be expelled etc, etc… Yet the prime minister is keeping silent.
Is India’s secular democracy at risk?
India is still a secular democracy but this is at risk. “Secularism” may be deleted from the Indian constitution once BJP musters enough support in both the houses of Parliament [Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha]. Political space is being squeezed for Muslims in every state controlled by BJP. Even meagre funds for development of Muslim-majority pockets are mostly returned to the treasury unspent. Though schemes started by the previous UPA government have not been scrapped as yet, we fear that that may happen as the BJP government feels confident enough to do so. In any case, schemes may stay on paper but they will not be properly implemented.