When Existence Itself Becomes a Conspiracy

    by Apoorvanand, CCG

    I had been evading writing this article as I did not know if there was anything about today’s India that has not been said before.  It is common knowledge that India is now a majoritarian and totalitarian state; that it has, in nearly all its aspects, become a country hostile to Muslims and also Christians; that the institutions meant to safeguard the Constitution have decided to serve the cause of the Hindutva majoritarian politics and ideology and that the media has become the main instigator of hatred and violence against Muslims and Christians… One could go on and on. All this has been said, written, again and again. We know it to be true. And yet, even those of us who will not lie about this truth force ourselves to call India a secular and civilised country. Calling it by its true name embarrasses us.  

    The reality is ugly. Yes, India remains a democracy as governments are still formed through a process which involves voting by the people, who still have the freedom to make their choice from the scores of political parties that can still operate in the field of political competition. Theoretically, eligible people from any religion can stand for elections. Theoretically, they can also hope to be elected to any office in the government. Yet, India’s Muslims know it well that in practice, for any of them to aspire to represent the state as its head is an absurd thought. A Hindu can be the Prime Minister in the UK where Hindus are only 1.7 per cent of the population and where—it must also be underlined—they are either first or second generation citizens of that country. Yet they can aspire to become ministers and lead the country. But in India, Muslims, who are nearly 15 per cent of the population and have lived here more than 1,000 years, cannot imagine being elected as the head of any government. Neither in the states, nor at the Centre. They cannot think of being given any important portfolio in the governments. A Muslim home minister or finance minister or education minister is unthinkable in India.   

    This disenfranchisement of Muslims is complete. In fact, Hindus are asked not to vote for the Congress party as it can lead to a Muslim being installed as the chief minister. And what could be a more horrible thing to happen to Hindus? This is what the voters of Gujarat were told by the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2017 during the assembly elections. The BJP leaders told their electorate that Ahmed Patel would become chief minister if the Congress Party was voted  to power, and that this was the secret plan hatched by the Congress  and the Pakistani Army. Similarly, the Assam Hindu electorate were warned that a non-BJP coalition winning the election would mean Badruddin Ajmal becoming the chief minister of the state.  

    Jammu and Kashmir was one state where Muslims headed the governments; where their political voice mattered. That had to be ended. That is why the state was degraded, broken into union  territories. A delimitation exercise has also been done with an  objective of turning Muslims into a marginal electoral force in the  state. Other measures have also been taken to change the demography  of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh which would decisively change the  character of the former state.  

    Muslims know it and have accepted it as their fate in a ‘secular’  country like India. The BJP, ruling at the centre for the last 10 years and  which heads or is part of the governments in 16 states, does not care  if its governments do not have Muslim ministers or MLAs or MPs.  It brazenly declares that it does not want their votes either. Himanta  Biswa Sarma, the second-time chief minister of Assam and one of the  star campaigners of the BJP, recently mocked Muslims by saying that  he would welcome them as his voters only after they have reformed  themselves and got rid of their backward practices. Until then, they  should not entertain any hopes of him asking for their votes.

    In democracies, political parties want all sections to vote for  them so that the majority they form is representative of the society.  They also make efforts to form their ministries in such a manner  that they reflect the diversity of the society. Great care is taken  to give place to all castes, even to those which have a minuscule  presence. But the BJP makes it very clear to the Muslims that it  is isolating them. It also tells Hindus by this act that Muslims are  effectively out of the business of democracy and the majority is  defined by Hindus alone.   

    Other political parties have been intimidated into silence. They  want Muslim votes but expect the community to ‘understand’ their  reluctance to be seen to be appealing to the community for votes  or even addressing its concerns. They do not project any Muslim  leader as their face and do not talk about any ‘Muslim’ issue in their  manifestos or election speeches.   

    Thus, Muslims have been reduced to the status of second-class  citizens. They can vote but they should never dream of representing  the larger society they live in.   

    The absence of Muslims from the forums and processes of law making makes it easier to pass anti-Muslim laws like the CAA which  creates a path to attain Indian citizenship from which only Muslims  are barred, and laws criminalising Triple Talaq or religious conversion  or the union of Muslim men with Hindu women or cow slaughter.  A government without Muslim representation can ban the selling  of eggs and meat in the open in the name of maintaining hygiene,  prohibit non-vegetarian food, including eggs, from the menu of  midday meals in schools—even in a place like Lakshadweep where  Muslims, a vast majority of whom are traditionally non-vegetarian,  are more than 99 per cent of the population. De-recognition of  Madrasas or taking over their control in the name of secularising  or modernising them, neglecting and supressing Urdu, reducing or  doing away with the schemes and scholarships aimed at encouraging  Muslims to join higher education are other ways of marginalising  Muslims in different spheres of life.

    We have seen open threats being issued by the CM of Assam to  Muslims that the land they own would be taken away as they are not  indigenous. He has also prescribed restrictions on the selling and  eating of meat within 5 km of Hindu religious places. He openly  calls for boycotting Muslim traders by calling them outsiders and  asks ‘locals’ not to buy from and trade with them. Recently he  launched a fresh assault on Muslims by saying that they are illegal as  their papers are forged and they would not be able to live in the state  under the cover of these ‘fake’ papers any longer.    

    The humiliation of Muslims has become part of the social and  political culture of India. One can see it on display even in the  highest bodies like the Parliament. A member of Parliament from  the ruling BJP openly abused a Muslim MP on the floor of the  house. No action was taken against him. After all, Muslims must see  that their leaders can be humiliated and insulted. 

    Add to all this the violence the Muslims face in their daily lives.  They are assaulted not only by organised forces affiliated to the  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), like the Bajrang Dal and the  Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but also by random goons or members of  organisations not directly connected to the RSS but which espouse  the ideology of Hindutva. Decentralisation of violence against  Muslims is a development of recent years. Even individuals feel  empowered to attack Muslims and also Christians. They know that  they will be protected by the lawmakers and agencies tasked with  maintaining law and order. ‘Lynching’ has now become part of the  lexicon of nearly all Indian languages. Muslims can be assaulted, can  be killed by mobs on any pretext. Sometimes it is the suspicion of  them carrying or keeping beef, or smuggling cows, or slaughtering  cows, or refusing to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, a gentle greeting of the  devout which the Hindutva gang has appropriated and corrupted,  turning it into a Hindu supremacist slogan. 

    Hindu religious occasions are routinely used to intimidate and  humiliate Muslims. Hindutva groups use these occasions to forcibly  take out their ‘religious’ processions through Muslim dominated areas, raising provocative slogans and playing songs on their DJ  systems which are full of abuses for Muslims or call for violence  against them.

     

    Excerpted with permission from In Defence of the Republic by the CCG published by Speaking Tiger Books, 2024.

    Apoorvanand is a professor of Hindi at the University of Delhi. He was born and raised in Siwan, Bihar and received his undergraduate education from Bihar University. He earned his Masters and Ph.D. from Patna University and has worked on the development of Marxist Aesthetics in Hindi Literature. In 2004, he joined the Hindi Department at the University of Delhi where he was instrumental in redesigning the department’s academic program. Additionally, Dr. Jha has published two books of essays in literary criticism: SUNDAR KA SWAPNA and SAHITYA KA EKANT. His critical essays have appeared in all major Hindi journals. Apart from his academic and literary writings, he also contributes columns in Indian Newspapers and magazines on the issues of education, culture, communalism, violence and human rights.

    The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) is a group of former civil servants of the All-India Services who have, over the course of their career, been a part of both Union and State Governments. They are passionate about the many tenets of the Indian Constitution and believe in the impartiality, neutrality and sanctity of it. The CCG was formed in 2017 and currently has 176 members.

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