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Hindutvadi Chauvinism Needs To Be Censured – OpEd

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Chauvinism remains the greatest threat to pluralism and often triggers genocide. When a chauvinist group is in power, it poses a mortal threat to others not just within its own confined spaces but also outside. In our time, Modi and the Sangh Parivar have become a threat to all the non-Hindus everywhere. It is no accident that Muslim and Christian minorities in India are the worst sufferers in the hands of Hindutvadi fascists, while the BJP government and its party leaders incite extermination campaigns. 

Genocide is a process and not an end result. It goes through several stages. As I have noted elsewhere nearly a decade ago, “Genocide requires preparation and planning. It begins in the minds of men and needs mass mobilization to commit the horror against the targeted group. The perpetrators or the executioners must not only feel secure but also must be self-motivated and zealous to commit their horrendous crimes. Often times, the task of preparing the mind is left to ideologues and chauvinist intellectuals who sell the poison tablet of intolerance against the targeted group. Without political leadership the overwhelming majority of the perpetrators would not lift a finger in harm. However, once set in motion, typically with a few encouraging and enabling words, they, both – the eliminationist regimes’ shock troops and their societies’ ordinary members – give themselves, body and soul, to death. They do so easily, effortlessly.

And this is what we are witnessing today in places like India and Myanmar.

Last month, a Dharma Sansad (Hindu convention) was attended by members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party. The 3-day summit, perhaps more properly should be called a hate-fest, was held from December 17 to 19, 2021 in northern India’s Haridwar city where multiple speakers, all dressed in saffron garb, the traditional dress for the Hindu priests, made calls for genocide of minorities, especially the country’s 200 million Muslims. A part of the event was livestreamed on social media. The videos of some of the speeches have also gone viral.

Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand, the notorious priest of Dasna Devi temple in Ghaziabad who was recently anointed ‘Mahamandaleshwar’ of the Juna Akhara,  told the gathering as the crowd cheered, “Economic boycott won’t work. Hindu groups need to update themselves [with better weapon]. Swords look good on stage only. This battle against Muslims will be won by those with better weapons.” 

Another speaker Sadhvi Annapurna, general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha [Hindu Grand Assembly], called for the mass murder of Muslims, according to the English news website The Wire. “Nothing is possible without weapons. If you want to eliminate their population then kill them. Be ready to kill and be ready to go to jail. Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs (i.e., 2 million) of them [Muslims], then we will be victorious, and go to jail,” Annapurna said. 

Dharamdas Maharaj from Bihar said: “If I was present in the parliament when PM Manmohan Singh said that minorities have first right over national resources, I would’ve followed Nathuram Godse (who killed MK Gandhi), I’d have shot him six times in the chest with a revolver.”

Anand Swaroop Maharaj,  who heads the Sambhavi Dhaam, asked Hindus to boycott Muslim vendors. He said that the decision of the Dharm Sansad was the “word of God” and that the government would have to listen to it.  He said: “If the governments do not listen to our demand (of establishment of a Hindu Rashtra through violence against minorities), we will wage a war far scarier than the 1857 revolt.”

Sagar Sindhuraj Maharaj emphasized, “I keep repeating again and again that instead of buying Rs 5000 mobile buy Rs 1 lakh (or 100,000) rupee weapon. You should at least have sticks and swords.”

Another Hindu seer, Prabodhanand Giri, who runs an organization called Hindu Raksha Sena in Haridwar, invoked the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as a model for what can be done to drive Muslims away, a monstrous event that has been covered in the media.  He associates himself with the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, whose picture is featured on his Facebook page. Speaking to the NDTV News the following day, he said that he stood by what he said, and asserted that he was not afraid of the police. 

It is reported that around the same time as the Haridwar Summit, a gathering of Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organization founded by Yogi Adityanath, met in Delhi to take an oath. Raising their hands, the hundreds of members chanted, “We make a resolution until our last breath: We will make India a Hindu nation, and keep it a Hindu-only nation. We will fight and die if required, we will kill as well.” Importantly, the oath was administered by none other than Suresh Chavhanke, the editor-in-chief of the right-wing news channel, Sudarshan News, who was involved in hate speech over TV controversy last year. He then tweeted a video of the oath to his half a million followers. One of the bail conditions generally is that one should not repeat the offence.

There is little doubt that the fascist ideology of Hindutva has hijacked Hinduism. 

As we all know, the genocide against the Jews and Roma gypsies did not start with the gas-chambers; it started with hate speech against those targeted minorities. For decades, the Hindutvadi fascists have prepared their base too well to perpetrate violence and savagery of all kinds against the loathed minority Muslims. Consequently, not a single day goes in today’s India without a Muslim being lynched somewhere in this country. They are reminded that there is no place for them in India, and that if they wanted to live they should settle in the neighboring Muslim countries. 

I share below some random samples of Hindutvadi violence faced by ordinary Muslims in India.

10 August 2021: A Muslim e-rickshaw driver is assaulted in Kanpur by a mob, beaten while his daughter clings to him, forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

21 August 2021: A Muslim beggar in Ajmer, Rajasthan, is beaten by a group of men and told to ‘go to Pakistan’.

22 August 2021: A Muslim bangle-seller is beaten up by a mob in Indore for selling his wares in a Hindu-dominated area, accused of love jihad, and arrested based on the accusations of one of the men who beat him up.

28 August 2021: A Muslim scrap-dealer is threatened by two men, forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, and made to leave a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain district.

29 August 2021: A Muslim dosa-seller in Mathura is attacked and his cart vandalised by a man who says his cart should have a Muslim name on it, while people in the crowd chant for purification of the city.

8 September 2021: Bengaluru-based ready-to-cook meals-company iD Fresh Foods, founded by five Muslim men, files a complaint with the Bengaluru Police after a forward goes viral making all sorts of communal allegations against them.

7 December 2021: For more than two months, Hindu fascist groups have been protesting against Muslims offering Friday prayers in Gurugram (formerly known as Gurgaon) – less than an hour outside the Indian capital New Delhi – causing outrage and anxiety among the minority. Muslims were beaten mercilessly by Hindus. Najim recounts, “We were walking away, when these people started coming after us and chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Then, they came and stopped their bikes in front of me and kept asking me to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. I told them I will not say it on their demands. I say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ of my own will when I have to, and participate in puja too. But I will not say it because they are forcing me to.” Another local corroborated Najim’s account, “I was there when this happened. They came on bikes, and started beating him after getting off their bikes. They kicked and punched, and beat him in a way people wouldn’t even beat their enemies.”

The minority Christians in India are also facing hatred and violence. The Christians in Indore were mid-hymn in their church when a Hindu mob kicked in the door. A swarm of men dressed in saffron poured inside. They jumped onstage and shouted Hindu supremacist slogans. They punched pastors in the head. They threw women to the ground, sending terrified children scuttling under their chairs. 

The Hindutvadi Bajrang Dal interrupted at least seven Christmas events in India. Jesus statues were smashed and effigies of Santa Claus were burned in a spate of attacks on India’s Christian community over Christmas. Dr John Dayal, former president of the All-India Catholic Union, said that the attacks on Christians were linked to the attacks against Muslims. These are not individual acts of aggression, but a larger structural issue. “When state agencies arrest the pastor instead of people who attack him, what do we make of it?” he asked.

The future of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India hangs in the balance after the Indian government said it would not renew permission for it to access foreign funding.

Not to be forgotten are also the spates of anti-conversion laws, citizenship amendment acts, gau-raksha laws, ghar- wapsi, land-jihad, UPSC jihad, Redi-Jihad, love-jihad and corona-jihad fevers, and many other bigotry-ridden laws that have nailed the coffin of secularism so hard that the ghosts of Hedgewar and Golwalkar must now be smiling! 

Modi’s India has sanctified hate crimes against the minorities and emboldened Hindutvadi fascists. Thus, days after the hate-fest in Haridwar, Tejaswi Surya, Modi’s handpicked youth leader and a BJP member of parliament, called for bringing Indian Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism, “the mother religion.” 

In this toxic environment of Hindutva, no Hindu politician today dares to talk in support of secularism, which has become a sure recipe for political suicide. No one wants to be seen as ‘anti-Hindu’ or ‘pro-Muslim’. As a result, the entire Hindu political class seems complicit in bolstering hate speech. In their deplorable short-sightedness, they forget that Nazi hate-provocateurs were tried and found guilty in the Nuremburg Trial. 

Not all are nonchalant though about such transformation of India into a Hindu Rashtra. In their letter to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, five ex-chiefs of the armed forces wrote, “We cannot allow such incitement to violence together with public expressions of hate – which not only constitute serious breaches of internal security but which could also tear apart the social fabric of our nation. One speaker made a call to the army and police to pick up weapons and participate in the cleanliness drive (safai abhiyan). This amounts to asking the army to participate in the genocide of our own citizens, and is condemnable and unacceptable.” The letter also mentions an event in Delhi when a large number of persons gathered in Delhi and publicly took an oath resolving to make India a Hindu nation, by fighting and killing, if necessary. “More such seditious meetings are being organized in other places,” it said.

Muslims in India are facing genocide. There is no other way to describe this hard fact. Genocide Watch has rightly stated, “Islamophobia is no longer a fringe sentiment in India. It has become a state-manufactured ideology.”  

Surely, the BJP government has not lost its sleep over the rapid and violent Hinduization of India under Narendra Modi’s leadership. His government’s criminal silence on all such Hindutvadi pogroms, including the latest incitement to exterminate Muslims, says it all loud and clear. He approves and endorses what the hateful Hindu priests said. The hate speech, including economic boycott, against Muslims keeps finding newer facets and newer ways to target the community. And if these hate crimes are not quashed swiftly the grim reality of a genocide will become inescapable. In this genocidal scheme of crimes, Muslims in Modi’s India are a fair game merely because what they are.

As India slips into Hindutvadi savagery, it is not too late for the world leaders to take a hard look at the rapid transformation of India from the so-called ‘largest democracy’ and ‘secular’ state to a Hindu-fascist state under a chauvinist leader like Modi and correct their courses for greater good of all humanity. They need to stop their honeymoon with a criminal government that is guilty of committing genocidal acts against the vulnerable minorities. 

Biden administration has been disappointingly silent on Modi government’s crimes against the minorities. The Hindutvadi calls for genocide are happening in the context of state elections to solidify BJP’s position. Is this ‘populist’, ‘majoritarian’ type of “democracy” that Biden likes to champion?  He needs to reevaluate the US policy vis-à-vis India. He cannot talk about promoting democracy and human rights while rewarding a budding-fascism in India with a history of government-supported pogroms against the non-Hindu minorities. 

For its part, the Government of Bangladesh cannot allow itself to be hoodwinked either and must send a strong message of condemnation for Modi government’s crimes that terrorize the minorities and promote intolerance and make the region unsafe and insecure for all. Its silence on issues that matter will only embitter its peace-loving population, cementing their long-held perception, right or wrong, that the current government is a spineless client of India. It’s important for the Sheikh Hasina government to take a stand on the right side of history. 

Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has a long history as a peaceful activist in an effort towards improving human rights and creating a just and equitable world. He has written extensively in the arena of humanity, global politics, social conscience and human rights since 1980, many of which have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet. He has tirelessly championed the cause of the disadvantaged, the poor and the forgotten here in Americas and abroad. Commenting on his articles, others have said, "His meticulously researched essays and articles combined with real human dimensions on the plight of the displaced peoples of Rohingya in Myanmar, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and American Muslims in the post-9/11 era have made him a singular important intellectual offering a sane voice with counterpoints to the shrill threats of the oppressors and the powerful. He offers a fresh and insightful perspective on a whole generation of a misunderstood and displaced people with little or no voice of their own." He has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through Amazon.com. His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia.

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