It is quite clear that Muslims are seen as foreign in the Hindutva imagination. They are seen as trustworthy and disloyal to the country, despite rejecting Pakistan and despite their decision to stay in India. There are a number of stereotypes against Muslims produced deliberately in India. One among them is ‘Love Jihad’ – that Muslim men deliberately marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam. There is even a stereotyping of Muslim men’s private parts, that circumcision makes Muslim men lustful and rapists. One BJP leader warned Hindus that Muslims will come and take away your daughters. Dibesh Anand in the article, “Hindutva nationalism and politics of fear”, wrote that calling Muslims lustful leads to pornosexualising Muslims.
Similarly, the Triple Talaq practice was used to criminalise Muslim men. A discourse was produced that Muslim women were not secure in Islam. There is a construction of Muslim women identity as unsafe, insecure, child-producing machines, and controlled by men. Hence, they are in need of protection from Muslim men. Men who leave their wives are from all communities but the focus is only on Muslims. Nivedita Menon says that Muslims are deliberately picked for criminalising them. Author Namrata Mishra has pointed out that Hindu groups call Muslims as biologically barbaric. This discourse promotes the idea that Babar was violent and barbaric and all Muslims, “Babar’s children”, are as barbaric. This is justified by referring to terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims.
Another stereotype is that Muslims produce more children only to change the demography of India. When the Shaheen Bagh movement was started by Muslim women, it challenged the Hindutva idea that Muslim women do not leave their home and children to step into the public sphere. These women adopted the Gandhian method of satyagraha, which is based on non-violence; they waved the national flag, sung the national anthem, and carried pictures of Gandhi and Ambedkar, but the government did not initiate any talks with these women.
Islamophobia is hate towards Muslims which can lead to violence and discrimination. Islamophobic crimes in India are not new as they have been happening since partition, but Muslims are now being openly lynched and targeted in state-supported communal riots as we have seen in Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar. These riots were fuelled onlt for political gain. Raheel Dhattiwala has documented how the Gujarat violence boosted the BJP’s vote. In Muzaffarnagar, as Surbi Khyati found in her research, the identity of Muslim became a source of insecurity. Through this violence the Muslims were forced to migrate and the areas turned into Hindu-majority ones. Muslims are also being lynched by Hindu mobs in the name of cow protection. This is everyday Islamophobia and is very visible. Islamophobia has now reached institutional level where government officials openly give hate speeches. One MLA was telling people not to buy vegetables from Muslims. They are publicly calling Muslims as traitors. The media is also selectively targeting Muslims, even making Muslims responsible for spreading Covid-19.
Such acts otherise Muslims and make them always suspect, disloyal, Pakistani, etc, in the perception of people. Abrogation of Article 370 was also an Islamophobic act. Kashmir was not the only region enjoying autonomous status in the country. There were other regions also but Article 370 was abrogated because Kashmir was a Muslim-majority region and the abrogation was done to show Hindutva dominance over Muslims. Before Article 370 was abrogated, a discourse was produced that this Article was against women, so Indian men were protecting Kashmiri women from injustice. When Kashmiri women came out to protest against this abrogation, the police took them into custody and did not allow them to say anything.
Muslims in India are being forced to chant “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Firstly we need to understand this Bharat Mata. Bharat Mata is a female allegory created by some nationalists like Abanindranath Tagore and others. If we look at this image of Bharat Mata, she is carrying a Trishul, riding a Tiger, and wearing a saffron sari. There are different temples where Bharat Mata is worshipped. Very clearly, this image has been given a Hindutva colour. It is not neutral in terms of religion. So, forcing people to chant this slogan is actually a way of dominance of Hindu religion over other religious groups. This is a clear violation of fundamental right of equality of Indian citizens.
The writer has done an MA in Political Science at Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]