Communal riots are not a new phenomenon in India against lower caste Hindus; Dalits and other religious minorities, especially Muslims. Hindu extremist groups, based on the ideology of Hindutva, often attack other minorities only due to a difference of faith or in a bid to implement their supremacy or Hindu hegemony to the detriment of the 20 percent of Indians who are not Hindu. Such discrimination has prevailed throughout the years in the Indian society. In the past, Hindu extremist groups committed atrocities not only against Muslims but also against other minorities such as atheists, Sikhs and Christians. A report has revealed that around 648 people were killed and 11,278 were injured during the years of 2005-09. These waves of atrocities against other minorities have increased especially since Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Narendra Modi was sworn in as Indian Prime Minister. Being a staunch Hindu, he is propagating Hindutva as the dominant ideology in Indian secular society. According to India’s Home Ministry, there was 17% increase in communal violence incidents under the Modi administration in 2015. Even before becoming Indian Prime Minister, he was quite infamous for instigating the Gujrat anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
In the past, Hindu extremist groups committed atrocities not only against Muslims but also against other minorities such as atheists, Sikhs and Christians. A report has revealed that around 648 people were killed and 11,278 were injured during the years of 2005-09.
The matter of fact is that BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) political wing, is now institutionalizing the Hindutva with the core aim of implementing the concepts of Akhand Bharat (Undivided India) and Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nationalism). Having this in mind they have launched many campaigns such as ‘Love Jihad’ (Muslim men are tricking Hindu girls in a bid to convert them), ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (a term denoting that Muslims are returning to their ancestral religion) and Gau-Rakshak (cow vigilantes). Nevertheless, daily circumstances in India are getting worse for religious minorities and low caste Hindus. Violence and mob-killing of other minorities are becoming normal routine in the Indian society.
Now the question is whether India will survive this climate of intolerance or not. The answer can be given after analyzing recent incidents of statue vandalism and violence during Ram Novami procession and dilution of SC/ST.
The wave of vandalism:
On March 3, 2018, the wave of vandalism arose in the town of Belonia in Tripura state after BJP won the local elections against the Communist Party of India, ending more than two decades of communist control. The vandals attacked a statue of Lenin and destroyed the sculpture completely. Just a few days later, the statue of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar was also vandalized in Uttar Pradesh by some extremist Hindus. The statue of Gandhi did not escape vandalism either as it was damaged in the southern state of Kerala.
Violence during Ram Novami procession:
Communal riots occurred in west Bangal and Bihar during Ram Novami procession. Ram Novami is a Hindu festival which often occurs during the months of March and April. It marks the birthday of Lord Rama. During the procession, weapons such as sword, pistols tridents and lances were taken out to mark the occasion by extremist Hindus. In addition to this, Hindutva miscreants also waved saffron flags at Madarsa Ziaul Islam mosque and burned part of the premises in Bihar which resulted into clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Among other causalities, the son of Imam Masjid was killed in Asansol during this Ram Novami procession too.
Dilution of SC/ST Act:
On March 20, 2018, ‘Bharat bandh’ movement started when the Indian apex court diluted the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, or the SC/ST Act which protects the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities. The Supreme Court ruled that ‘public servants cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the appointing authority and citizens too should be arrested only after an inquiry under the law’. Consequently, Dalit and other pro-low castes started widespread protests across five states at the cost of many lives.
On March 20, 2018, ‘Bharat bandh’ movement started when the Indian apex court diluted the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, or the SC/ST Act which protects the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities.
Thus, while keeping in mind above incidents, climate of intolerance in India will not end any time soon. The prevailing climate of intolerance reveals that the consistent efforts by the rightwing groups led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) aim to stamp the hegemony of Hindutva over other minorities’ by adopting the violent means or through diluting the SC/ST Act.
As a final word, India’s secularism and pluralism are under threat from the Modi Government. It could be accurate to say that India is on a self- destructive mode due to the patriarchal control, threats to physical security of minorities and consolidation of exclusionary practices. Hate filled speeches, hate crimes against Muslims, spreading fake news through social media in a bid to create tensions against minorities are becoming the daily order in the recent months. Such incidents have damaged the Indian status of professed secular fabric of society as the only purpose of Modi Government is to implement Hindutva over other minorities.