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Plight of Minorities in ‘Shining India’

Afia Ambreen


Recently, a report titled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India” released by US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) notes that in India, hate crimes against religious minorities, their social boycotts and forced conversions have escalated dramatically since 2014. The report examines the country’s constitution and national and state laws that discriminate against religious minorities and Dalits. “India is a religiously diverse and democratic society with a constitution that provides legal equality for its citizens irrespective of their religion and prohibits religion-based discrimination,” said USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese. “However, the reality is far different. In fact, India’s pluralistic tradition faces serious challenges … (and) during the past few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations have increased in some areas of India.” The study notes that of India’s 1.2 billion people nearly 80 per cent are Hindus, with an estimated 172.2 million Muslims, 27.8 million Christians, 20.8 million Sikhs, and 4.5 million Jains. The Muslim population makes India the third largest Muslim country in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan.
Of late, the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission has tallied 134 attacks on Christians or their churches in the first half of 2016, nearly as many as the annual totals for both 2014 and 2015. As far as the Muslims are concerned, they were targeted on the basis of land disputes, their traditional livelihoods selling beef or cow products, and social interaction with Hindus. In this regard, several well known authors, filmmakers and other civil society members returned national and State sponsored awards to protest; what they said was the growing religious and cultural intolerance in the country. It is important to mention that the passage of the Maharashtra law banning cow slaughter and beef distribution and consumption as a State government initiative disproportionately affecting Muslims, who have traditionally dominated the beef and buffalo meat trade. After Hindu mob killing of an individual accused of cow slaughter in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, religious groups reported official hate speeches against Muslims increased. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar remarked that Muslims can stay in India, but they will have to give up eating beef.
Mostly, Muslims live in India deprived of basic necessities such as electricity, roads and municipal services. In some States such as Mahrashtra, banks denied loans to Muslim businessmen. Muslim face worse discrimination in respect of jobs. The Sachar Committee prepared its report in November 2006 and presented it to the Parliament on 30 November 2006. The report highlighted miserable socio-economic conditions of Muslims in the field of education, employment, access to credit, infrastructural facilities and political representation and made a strong case for improving the socio economic situation of Muslims. The data gathered by the Sachar Committee showed that Muslims now constitute India’s new underclass. The Sachar Committee data from 12 states where Muslim share in total population 15.4 percent showed that their representation in government jobs was only 5.7 percent. In Police, administrative and diplomatic services their representations varies from 1.6 to 3.4 percent. Muslims are poorly presented in Judiciary and Military. From the beginning the Muslims are under represented in the Indian Armed Forces. The Indian leaders have also confessed this fact. Mr Nehru once said in 1953 that in our defence services, there are hardly any Muslim left. The Muslims are totally absent from Intelligence Agencies such as Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and National Security Guard (NSG) as they are mistrusted.
Moreover, the prejudice towards Muslims is also reflected at political level. Muslims have consistently been under represented in the Lok Sabha and all States Assemblies since independence. In India, Muslims are not elected as legislator according to their population’s share. Ironically, Muslims are over represented in prisons only. Rajiv Bhargava, a political theorist attached to the Center for Study of Developing Societies in Delhi has said that the plain, bitter truth is that Muslims’ have long been the target of systematic exclusion and discrimination. They face institutionalized religious prejudice, just as ethnic minorities from the former colonies face institutionalized racism in Western Europe, or Blacks do in the United States.
The marginalization of Muslims in India is well documented but never discussed. In mid 2000s, the Indian government commissioned two studies, the “Sachar Commission Report” of 2006 and the “Misra Commission Report” of 2007. These Highlighted a higher prevalence of discrimination towards Muslims and socio-economic deprivation among them as compared to others religious groups. No concrete actions, however, have been taken to address these issues at the policy level. If anything that has happened is the situation has only worsened. The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its partner organizations of the Hindu rights have started a concerted campaign against all religious minorities, especially against Muslims. The main features of this campaign includes the protests against the so-called ‘Love Jihad’. Muslims and Christian men allegedly converting Hindu women to Islam and Christianity by trapping them in love affair. Responding to these allegations an initiative called Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) has been launched which convert Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism. Similar moves towards Hinduisation have been taking place across India which is a cause of great concern at international arena.
In short, the plight of Indian minorities, especially, during BJP’s era has surpassed all previous records. There is a need to expose Modi’s fundamental policies dictated by RSS, to unleash atrocities on Indian minorities and still showcase India to be a secular state. Unfortunately, secular claims are not substantiated by the ground realities. The reality is that India has an unwritten mandate of pushing the minorities against the wall through State policies as well as by hardliner Hindu politicians. State sponsored anti minority initiatives like ‘Purkhon ki Ghar Vapsi’, a mass conversion jointly organized by Dharma Jagran Samanvay Vibhag, an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal, ban on cow slaughter, lynching of Muslims on fabricated charges of eating beef, increasing rape incidents targeting all the minority groups including Christian elderly Nuns and instigation of Hindus against Muslim populace are just few examples of Anti minority venom amongst Hindutva centric Modi’s Government and its political allies.

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