How being anti-Hindu became fashionable among India’s middle-class
Despite the chilling brutality of the Islamic State (ISIS), the harsh laws of Sunni Saudi Arabia and the hate speeches of mullahs from Tehran to Islamabad, the more extremist strains of radical Islam receive less criticism than they deserve.
Few want to meet the fate of the journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, murdered by Islamist terrorists, or Kamlesh Tiwari, still languishing in jail nearly a year after his allegedly derogatory comments on the Prophet.
Islamaphobia is rightly condemned. Hinduphobia though is acceptable in living rooms across upper middle-class urban India where secular poseurs are many in number.
Indian right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers give a traditional salute at a rally in Pune
In India it’s kosher, even fashionable among the nouveau elite, to be anti-Hindu.
We’ll come to the pathology of this curious phenomenon in a bit but first a look at The Economist’s story on Muslims in India whom it calls ‘An Uncertain Community’.
The magazine grudgingly concedes that ‘India’s Muslims have not, it is true, been officially persecuted, hounded into exile or systematically targeted by terrorists, as have minorities in other parts of the subcontinent, such as the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan.’
The Economist has displayed poor editorial judgement so often (it backed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003) that its insight on secularism in India is predictably myopic.
And yet, the patronising, all-knowing tone it adopts towards India’s secular ethos echoes the position of India’s Hinduphobes.
Most Indian Hinduphobes are, strangely, Hindus.
They call themselves secular but are often not. Secularism requires religion-neutrality. They lack that. Bias colours their views.
So why are sophisticated, educated Hindus who aspire to be secular so Hinduphobic?
Because they completely misunderstand what real secularism means.
As I wrote in my book The New Clash of Civilizations, ‘Influential sections of especially the electronic media, suffused with hearts bleeding from the wrong ventricle, are part of this great fraud played on India’s poverty-stricken Muslims – communalism with an engaging secular mask.
An annual rally by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a paramilitary volunteer nationalist organisation
‘The token Muslim is lionised – from business to literature – but the common Muslim languishes in his 69-year-old ghetto.
‘It is from such ghettos that raw recruits to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujaheedin (IM) are most easily found.
‘India’s religious diversity though is deeply embedded. Six of India’s highest constitutional functionaries have recently been Sikh (prime minister), Christian (UPA chairperson), Muslim (chief election commissioner), Parsi (chief justice of India), Dalit (speaker of the Lok Sabha) and Hindu (president).
‘There is no other country in the world with such breathtaking plurality at the highest level of leadership.
‘Consider Britain: only Protestant (not Catholic) Christians can be monarch.
‘In Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, minorities (including Muslim Ahmadis) have severely restricted rights.
‘Unlike burqa-banning Western democracies such as France and Belgium, Indian secularism does not separate church from state.
‘It allows them to swim together in a common, if sometimes, chaotic pool.’
Politicians are the worst offenders. Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee turns a blind eye to atrocities by Muslims against Hindus.
In a brazen exhibition of communal politics, she does so in order to secure Bengal’s 27 per cent Muslim electorate that, along with a small slice of the Hindu majority, can guarantee her over 40 per cent of the vote-share and a near-landslide in a four-cornered contest with the Left, BJP and fr-enemy Congress.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to address the media on the opening day of the winter session of Parliament in New Delhi
This sort of communal polarisation suits the BJP. The rise of majoritarianism has underpinned its success in states like Assam.
The biggest loser has been the Congress, the original communal polariser in the 1985 Shah Bano case. It is now reaping the ill wind.
The rise of Hindu extremist fringe elements is a direct consequence of decades of political parties pandering to minorities in the name of a fraudulent secularism.
Meanwhile, the ‘mild’, everyday Hindu, inured to caste stratification, fatalism, karma and centuries of Islamic and Christian-British subjugation, is an easy target for Hinduphobes.
The Economist’s piece on Indian Muslims – ‘An Uncertain Community ‘ – ends with a quote by a veteran Muslim voice: ‘ ‘They called it a secular state, which is why many who had a choice at Partition wanted to stay here,’ says Saeed Naqvi, a journalist whose recent book, Being The Other, chronicles the growing alienation of India’s Muslims.
‘But what really happened was that we seamlessly glided from British Raj to Hindu Raj.’
This is misleading for two reasons. First, it is of course a misnomer to call the British occupation of India the British Raj.
That connotes a benign presence which the occupation was not.
Second, India is hardly a ‘Hindu Raj’ given the fact that Muslims, Christians, Parsis and others have their own personal laws and, bar isolated incidents, are safer in India than virtually anywhere else in the world.