Where Is India Heading? – OpEd

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India is going through a phenomenal transformation politically, socially, and religiously. It is exciting. But it is also scarry and quite different than the popular image of a Nehru-Gandhi’s India. 

On February 14, 2024, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a $95 million temple in Abu Dhabi on 27 acres of land that is donated by President Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a Muslim ruler of UAE. Accompanied by Hindu religious leaders and monks, Modi offered prayers and performed rituals as he toured the temple in an event that was attended by members of the UAE government, Bollywood actors and the Indian community. 

Modi said, “This temple is a symbol of the shared heritage of humanity. It is a symbol of the mutual love between the Indian and Arab people. It reflects the philosophical connection between India and the UAE.” (1) “Today, the United Arab Emirates has written a golden chapter in human history. A beautiful and divine temple is being inaugurated here,” he said.

While history may be in the past, heritage is in the present and Muslim heritage is threatened as never before in Modi’s India. So, the inauguration of the Hindu temple in the heart of Muslim Arabia sounds so surrealistic when under his very watch, India is guilty of cultural genocide and vandalism in which Muslim heritage sites are demolished one after another. 

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On July 31, 2023, the Anjuman Jama mosque in Gurugram, a predominantly Hindu city next to India’s capital, New Delhi, was set on fire by a Hindu mob. Its young Imam, Mohammad Saad, was also killed. (2)

On March 31, 2023, during Ram Navami celebrations, a Hindu mob of about 1,000 men, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, burned down Azizia Madrasa library with 5,000 books — including ancient manuscripts and handwritten Islamic texts in calligraphy — in the town of Bihar Sharif of Nalanda district in the state of Bihar. (3) The library was 123 years old and preserved a priceless collection of books over several generations. The attackers came prepared with sticks, stones and petrol bombs. More than 500 students were enrolled in this madrasa. Now their books have turned into ashes. 

Fascists are known to hate books that are written by those they abhor.

On May 10, 1933, five thousand Nazi students and professors gathered in Bebelplatz, Berlin, with flaming torches. They set fire to a pile of nearly 20,000 books written mainly by Jewish authors and communist thinkers. Forty thousand people watched this event.

The students read out their mantra: “Against decadence and moral decay! For discipline and decency in the family and the nation! I commit to the flames, the writings of….”

Writer Eric Kastner, whose books were hurled into the fire, was standing in the crowd, unrecognized. He later described this as Begräbniswetter or funeral weather. The day was dark and cloudy, and the rain extinguished the fire. So, the students had to keep pouring petrol for the flames to live and the books to die. 

Among the books burned that day were works by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), a German poet, writer, and literary critic. 

To memorialize the 1933 book-burning event, directly under Bebelplatz (formerly and colloquially the Opernplatz) there is now a library of empty white shelves with space for around 20,000 books. There is also a bronze plaque containing a chilling message, one of the most famous lines of Heine’s 1821 play Almansor, spoken by the Muslim Hassan upon hearing that Christian conquerors burned the Qur’an at the marketplace of Granada: “das war ein vorspiel nur, dort wo man bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man am ende auch menschen” – Heinrich  heine 1820.

(meaning: “That was but a prelude; where they burn books. They will ultimately burn people as well.” – Heinrich Heine 1820)

Heine’s writings were abhorred by the German Nazis. Not long afterward came the Holocaust and its mass murder of millions by the Nazis.

India’s thriving Hindutvadi mood of burning and killing is chillingly captured by Sameena Dalwai, who is a university professor of law. In an article for Al Jazeera, she writes, (4) “In India that order has been reversed. We burned people and have now reached books. The Mumbai riots after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. The 2002 Gujarat carnage. A mother’s testimony in Gujarat narrated how they tied her disabled son to a tree and beat him up. He cried for water, but they fed him petrol. A match was put on him and he blew up like a bomb. It’s a vision the mother is fated to carry. but I wonder if his killers remember it. Are they tormented by it?”

In Germany, it started with attacks on Jewish trades and bans on their professional work, grew into the capture of Jewish property and homes, but very soon turned to deportation to ghettos, followed by mass murders. All this while non-Jewish Germans watched. Could they have stopped it?

“In India, we are watching the rapid poisoning of the collective mind with propaganda that the ancient glory of Hindus was tarnished by Muslim rulers. That contemporary India’s rise is being held back by Muslims — who are blamed for everything from the country’s large population and the spread of the coronavirus to anti-women practices and even inflation. From the withdrawal of scholarships for Muslims to amendments to the citizenship law that discriminate against Muslim asylum seekers, the ruling party is leaving no stone unturned to fan the fuels of division.”

“Many decades after the Holocaust, Germany still carries the burden of its history. We Indians are living that history right here, right now. Is it too late to amend it? Or are our future generations condemned to carry the weight of what we did — and didn’t do?”

I could not have said better.

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On 22 January 2024 Prime Minister Narendra Modi casting himself as the High Priest of Hinduism consecrated the idol of Hindu Lord Ram in Ayodhya. Addressing the country from there he said that the “wheel of time” had turned. He said, “We are laying the foundation of India for the next 1,000 years. We take a pledge to build a capable, grand, divine India from this moment.”

Just before this ceremony Muslim leaders warned that Muslims should avoid travel on that day as there would be large scale movement of Kar Sevaks during the day. As saffron flags flew all over including Ayodhya, most of the Muslims remained indoors. They feared a repeat of the mayhem that followed the destruction of Babri Mosque by Hindutvadi forces, nearly three decades ago.

After the consecration ceremony, a Muslim graveyard was set ablaze in Bihar, a Muslim was paraded naked in a town in South India and a saffron flag was hoisted on the Church by the Hindtuvadis. In Mira Road near Mumbai, a Ram Mandir Pran Pratishta procession was involved in a hate crime in which a Muslim taxi driver Mohammad Tariq was brutally attacked in front of police who did not intervene. The Hindu mob targeted several Muslims in the locality, rampaged through their shops and damaged vehicles while chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (Victory to Ram). Similar rallies, often to the beat of booming far-right pop music, took place outside mosques and Muslim neighborhoods across several states in India. (5)

The mood of the country is described by social activist Ram Puniyani: “As the Prime Minister acted as high priest of Hinduism on one hand there were massive displays of religiosity, people assembled to celebrate, on the other there was a scare among Muslim community.” (6)

“This country is increasingly unrecognizable to me, where Muslims are like rubbish for them,” said Haque, on his way to a police station with his son Tariq after the Tuesday attack. “There were so many people [during the Mira Road attack] but no one stopped them from beating my child. It is shameful for society. It is a city of the blind.” (7)

It is not Mumbai alone that has become a city of the blind. Since Modi’s rise to power in 2014, the entire India has become blind to violences perpetrated against religious minorities, esp. Muslims. 

Obviously, the ‘wheel of time’ has come for the Hindutvadis who feel audaciously resurgent and not for the  others. 

Narendra Modi promises a grand and divine future awaiting for Indians at home and abroad. But if past is any indicator to predict the future, India’s religious minorities are scared of Modi’s promise. 

Can anything grand and divine come out of the belly of a hideous, apartheid system that is built upon hatred and intolerance and a highly flawed judicial system that is biased against its weak and minorities, and shields the bigwigs and Hindu extremists, and is abused by the ruling party to act as its rubber-stamp to materialize its highly divisive agenda? 

I doubt it.

[Excerpted from the author’s upcoming book: ‘Modi-fied’ India: the transformation of a nation.]

  1.  India’s Modi opens Hindu temple in Muslim UAE as election nears | Reuters
  2.  Muslims in fear in India’s Gurugram after attacks on mosque, businesses | Islamophobia News | Al Jazeera
  3.  India town mourns burning of historic library at Muslim school | Islamophobia News | Al Jazeera
  4.  Will India’s future generations forgive its decay into anti-Muslim hatred? | Politics | Al Jazeera
  5.  Violence, Riots in Mira Road, Mumbai: Tempo Owner Attacked by Mob narrates ordeal, Attacks Reported on 3rd Consecutive Day, Police Warn WhatsApp Admins (thequint.com)
  6.  Ram: From Divine Spirit to Hindu Nationalist Icon (drhabibsiddiqui.blogspot.com)
  7.  ‘Too much poison’: Attacks on Indian Muslims grow after Ram temple ceremony | Islamophobia | Al Jazeera

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.

3 thoughts on “Where Is India Heading? – OpEd

  • February 23, 2024 at 4:56 am
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    Where Is India Heading? Asks Dr Habib Siddiqui and states; “India is going through a phenomenal transformation politically, socially, and religiously.” So, is there anything wrong in transforming to the rightful place which Bharat has held for centuries? I do not by any chance appreciate the deplorable incidents of violence they all are to be condemned. “India is Heading in the Right Direction” and is the Voice for Peace for the world at large.
    Please note what the Greek Prime Minister said in his inaugural address that India’s rise on the international stage and its position as a growing force at the heart of the G20, he believed, made the country a key ally in the pursuit of peace, security, and efforts to fight climate change. As civilizational states, the two nations have a responsibility to contribute to the evolution of the world order.

    Reply
    • February 26, 2024 at 7:18 pm
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      A nation can not become great externally, unless it becomes great internally. By marginalizing, humiliating, suppressing minorities , what civilizational values India is trying to uphold like the Greeks, the birthplace of democracy ?

      How independent is India’s Supreme Court? Despite its enormous powers, it rarely challenges the government. Without democratic principles of checks and balance , the societies are destined to decay and wither away. It’s all part of the evolutionary process.

      It is a beautiful piece of article by the writer. Thank you for your scientific research work.

      Reply
  • February 24, 2024 at 3:29 am
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    India is finally getting out of opium of secularism fed to it by Taquiyya, a Muslim pretending to be Hindu, Jawaharlala Nehru, which helped prevented Pakistan from becoming a collapsed state, like Belgian Congo, in 1947.

    Reply

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