One Speech From Modi Can’t Delete His Govt’s Persecution of Muslims
Indian Muslims have every reason to be fearful about their future, writes Mahtab Alam in a rebuttal to Prof Faizan Mustafa’s article.
In his latest column in The Indian Express, Prof Faizan Mustafa has argued that Muslims should welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “resolve of winning over the “trust” of the minorities.” This was in the response to the prediction by several liberal and secular scholars and newspaper editorials, which presented “a bleak future and isolation for India’s 15 crore Muslims after the massive electoral victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” According to Mustafa, “some of the fears of liberals may be real but many are not only unfounded but may be counter-productive, which might lead Muslims to go into a shell.”
While I agree with the author that Muslims shouldn’t fear because it only serves to increase their helplessness, to claim that the apprehensions expressed by liberals are unfounded is far from the truth. While all that Mustafa can cite in his favour is the recent speech of Modi, there is virtually a mountain of evidence that points to the BJP government’s crimes of omission and commission in failing to protect the basic rights of religious minorities, especially Muslims.
In fact, in many cases members of his own party and the government were involved directly or indirectly either in perpetrating hate crimes—from the suave English-speaking Jayant Sinha to rabble rouser Giriraj Singh. And then there are others like Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and PS Sreedharan Pillai who have left no stone unturned to create an anti-Muslim atmosphere in the country. Moreover, during the election campaign, PM Modi and BJP president Amit Shah deployed the dog whistle, demonising Muslims and presenting themselves unabashedly as Hindu leaders.
And this has worked in the party’s favour as election analyst Gilles Verniers has noted while explaining BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh. This election was as much about “emotional appeals, drawing on religious identities and patriotism” as about the “flagship schemes and Modi’s personality.” We would not be off the mark in drawing similar conclusions about West Bengal and many other states, where the party registered its rise.
Mustafa has cited victories in some well-known cases like Bilkis Bano, Hadiya (‘Love Jihad’) and few others, in which Muslims have been able to secure justice. But surely these cases are not even the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of cases of injustice against Muslims are yet to see the day of judgement. Moreover, these cases were marked by support of civil society groups –and yet it took years for the victims to get relief. In most cases of targeted violence where the victims fight lonely battles, justice has remained elusive. Similarly, Mustafa’s argument that government’s regressive policies would equally affect all citizens ignores the specific vulnerability of minorities.
In his victory speech, PM Modi also invoked the constitution, which is seen as heartening and historic by Mustafa and several others, but what is conveniently forgotten is that there are leaders like Anant Kumar Hegde in Modi’s cabinet who have openly called for change, and even abandonment of this very constitution. Moreover, “the constitution”, as political scientist Suhas Palshikar notes, “is not just a poem on democracy; it is an essay on rule of law. While our public discourse keeps reciting the poem, our public practice casually holds rule of law in contempt.” What is to be also noted is that the very institutions, through which Muslims were able to secure justice, are under attack. It is a well-known and documented fact that in the history of India after the Emergency, it is during the Modi government these institutions were under attack, but there was no mention of this in the article.
Given the track record of the Modi government and the continued and targeted attacks which have continued even as PM Modi made his speech, Muslims have every reason to be fearful and concerned about their future. The PM is yet to acknowledge the attacks which have taken place since he won the massive mandate. In fact, the storm troopers are interpreting the mandate as a sanction for anti-minority violence.
Hence, unless it is ensured that Muslims and other marginalised sections are treated equally, and this reign of impunity ends, many people, including me, will have every reason to believe that PM Modi is indulging in lip service merely in order to appear non-partisan and improve international image. In days to come, it will be interesting to see what concrete action is taken. And I will happy to be wrong if my apprehensions and concerns turn out to be misplaced. For now, people have nothing but to believe that all the talk about winning trust is nothing but another jumla.
(The writer is a multilingual journalist and executive editor of The Wire Urdu. The views expressed are personal.)