Things have been getting steadily precarious for religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians since the Hindu religious nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came to power in India in May 2014. The Indian Express, one of India’s major newspapers, reported that there were 600 incidents in just ten weeks since the election of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime minister.
There have been several instances of violence against minorities. The first major sign of things to come was when some members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena (Hindu national army) beat a young Muslim IT expert Mohsin Sheikh to death, for allegedly posting an insulting update on social media, within a few days of BJP coming to power. The episode was widely reported in the media and it shocked many in the country. The gruesome act appeared to confirm the fear of religious minorities. With a religious party in power the likelihood of religious extremists getting emboldened and acting with greater impunity seemed to be coming true.
In the past six months there have been several episodes of violence against Christians and Muslims all across the country. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who comes from a hardcore Hindu right wing organization the RSS, could do more to speak out against such egregious violence and even launch a national campaign against religiously motivated violence, but he is too busy taking a victory lap across the world and trying to consolidate his party’s control over the Indian diaspora which is rich, influential and global.
Violence between religious communities is unfortunately not a new phenomenon as far as India is concerned. What is new however, is the brazen and emboldened actions of Hindu extremists who are now calling for a hundred percent Hindu India, through elimination of centuries old presence of Islam and Christianity. The audacity of this call is breathtaking. They are calling for the conversion of religious minorities, who constitute nearly 200 million, to Hinduism. It’s akin to making the fifth most populous country – Brazil – disappear from the world.
Trying to convert 200 million people maybe a tall order, but it is not deterring the Hindu groups. They have launched their effort in earnest. In a rather troubling development an offshoot of the ruling Hindu nationalist party, BJP, converted nearly 200 Muslims from the poorest segments of the society en masse to Hinduism using coercion and the promise of providing ration cards. Rational cards are a right of all citizens. These people should automatically get those ration cards. But now that Hindu nationalists are in power, the Hindu extremists are able to use the state and its benefits as a religio-political leverage. It’s like Republicans in the United States using social security that should be available to all, regardless of their religion, as an incentive to convert people to Christianity.