India’s landing a spacecraft on the moon must be lauded. It is all the more impressive given that there are more than 400 million Indians living in absolute poverty. Another half a billion people defect in the open in a country that is described as the world’s largest toilet bowl.
It is, however, to another aspect that we need to turn our attention: India’s horrific human rights record. Its scientific and economic progress cannot hide the ugly reality of its mistreatment of hundreds of millions of people whether based on caste or religion. Equally alarming is the rape of women and girls. India ranks among one of the worst countries in the world for rapes. These also invariably result in the murder of the victims, especially Dalit girls.
Two groups in particular are targeted in India: Dalits and Muslims. Each comprises more than 200 million people. Add to that the Christian community in India and one can begin to get a sense of what is wrong with the country dominated by Hindutva fascists.
Dalits are the original inhabitants of India. Dark-skinned, they often called ‘untouchables’. Here is why. They are forced to do the dirties jobs in society: cleaning toilets and doing other menial work. Given the lack of proper toilets, Dalits spend most of their day cleaning human waste.
They also suffer other indignities on a daily basis. Given the ubiquitous caste system whereby people are born into a particular caste—a religiously sanctified system of apartheid—there is no escape from its stranglehold. It stratifies people into the caste pyramid. At the top sit the Brahmins, the ‘highest caste’. At the bottom reside the Dalits.
Brahmins enjoy all the perks of life because Hinduism grants them this status. The Dalits suffer all the indignities because that is what the religion says. While officially, India abolished the caste system in 1952, discrimination and racism cannot be legislated away, particularly if it is ingrained in people’s consciousness for thousands of years.
Forget about inter-caste marriages. Dalits cannot use even the plate or glass reserved for Brahmins or other castes that consider themselves higher in the hierarchy. In the rural areas where India’s vast majority resides, they cannot draw water from the same well where ‘upper’ caste Hindus draw water. The list goes on.
The targeting of Muslims, the other minority facing Hindutva fascism, has escalated since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. He had already honed his murderous skills against Muslims when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. In February 2002, Modi prevented the police from rescuing Muslims who were being targeted by Hindu fascist gangs. Nearly 2,000 Muslims, among then pregnant women, were hacked to death.
Today, Muslims in India face escalating threats of genocide. They are targeted for eating beef, or more specifically cow meat, building mosques on land that allegedly was formerly a temple, building houses by accusing them of encroachment and even attacking and beating up children.
Last month, a Hindu teacher ordered her students to slap a young seven-year-old Muslim student in class in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Hindu children that did not slap the poor child hard enough were ordered to ‘slap him harder’. The state is controlled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is in the forefront of the anti-Muslim campaign in India.
There is a long history to anti-Muslim attacks in India. The western corporate media taking its cue from the Hindu-dominated media, refers to attacks on Muslims as ‘communal riots’. What this implies is that two communities—Hindus and Muslims—are involved in fighting each other. The fact is that it is the Hindu fascists, armed with machetes and iron bars, that repeatedly attack and lynch Muslims in broad daylight.
The police either watch from a distance or even joins in the lynching. Such barbaric acts do not occur in a vacuum. There is a long history to anti-Muslim bigotry in India. A Hindu fascist outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that emerged in 1925, has spearheaded the anti-Muslim campaign. It has more than 6 million members that received military-style training to kill and maim. The RSS also has branches worldwide, especially in western countries where the regimes turn a blind eye to their criminal activities.
What is the Hindutva brigade’s main beef against Muslims? They are accused of being alien invaders. Muslims ruled India for more than 1,000 years and gave the country such monuments as the Taj Mahal in Agra (one of the wonders of the world), the Red Fort in Delhi, as well as roads and postal system. Its economy boomed.
Muslim rule was not oppressive. They did not destroy Hindu temples or force people to convert to Islam. Given the Hindutva brigades’ anti-Muslim campaign today, one wishes the Muslims had been more forceful.
Modi has made anti-Muslim bigotry a fundamental plank of his party platform. His appeal to the base instincts of Hindu majoritarianism represented by Hindutva ideology and implemented by the RSS, pose an existential threat to Muslims in India.
Examples abound. In December 2021, blood-curdling threats against Muslims were issued at a ‘Dharma Sansad’ (Religious Parliament) held at Haridwar in India’s Uttarakhand state. It was not a fringe event. Leading Hindu religious figures, right-wing zealots, hardline fundamentalist fascists and Hindutva organisations all participated in this so-called Religious Parliament.
The purpose of the hate fest was to spew hatred against Muslims. Attendees were urged to arm themselves to exterminate Muslims.
The chief organizer of the Haridwar hate fest, the notorious Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand, said on the occasion, “Economic boycott [of Muslims] won’t work. Hindu groups need to update themselves. Swords look good on stage only. This battle will be won by those with better weapons,” the Hindutva fascist leader was quoted as saying by the Indian magazine, The Quint.
It was also Narsinghanand whose hate-filled speeches had led to attacks on Muslims in Delhi in February 2020. The Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), a UN body, called the Delhi attacks on Muslims a “pogrom”. Leading lights of the ruling BJP attended the hate-fest in Haridwar. Not a word of condemnation was uttered by Modi. It would have been uncharacteristic if he had, since Modi himself had presided over the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat in February 2002.
Following the Gujarat pogrom that was widely reported even in the western corporate media, Modi was barred entry into the United States. The ban was lifted after he became India’s prime minister in 2014. The Times of India reported that the tourist/business visa that he already had was revoked following the Gujarat massacre.
Today, Modi is courted by the same USA and was given a red carpet welcome when he visited Washington in June 2023. While Muslim blood was still dripping from his grubby hands, Modi was welcomed and embraced by the octogenarian American president Joe Biden.
Killing Muslims is a favourite policy of most regimes in the world today. Hindu fascists have been accepted by American imperialists and zionist settler colonialists in their anti-Muslim crusade.
The real heart-breaking reality is that most Muslim governments are not only silent in the face of the Muslims’ genocide but have embraced fascist India for economic benefit.