The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party have long held deep seated animus toward Muslims.

Authorities throughout India are taking a crueler approach to Muslims and other minority groups. In October, police in Gujarat publicly flogged several Muslim men who were accused of disrupting a Hindu festival. In some places, authorities are demolishing homes belonging to Muslims for a variety of reasons.

In response to communal violence in April, authorities in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Delhi summarily destroyed property owned by Muslims. They attempted to use the fact that the buildings were unlawful to excuse the demolitions, but it was clear that the purpose was to punish Muslims who were considered troublemakers.

“In April, the authorities in Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh state, Anand and Sabarkantha districts in Gujarat state, and Jahangirpuri neighborhood in Delhi responded to communal clashes by summarily demolishing property, most of it owned by Muslims. The clashes occurred after religious processions of armed Hindu men passed through Muslim localities during Hindu festivals. The men shouted anti-Muslim slogans in front of mosques while the police failed to take any action,” Human Rights Watch wrote in 2022.

There are other options available to authorities for dealing with Muslims besides demolishing their homes. India is under increasing scrutiny for how it treats its Muslim minority.

“The authorities in several Indian states are carrying out violence against Muslims as a kind of summary punishment,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Yogi Adityanath, often referred to as “Bulldozer Baba,” the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, justified demolishing homes as a “symbol of peace” as recently as January. How is peace or reconciliation possible when you are demolishing someone’s home?

In all such actions, Human Rights Watch notes, state governments did not have any “legal authorization.” “The authorities in India are increasingly using summary and abusive punishments against Muslims deemed to have broken the law…In several states ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the authorities have demolished Muslim homes and properties without legal authorization, and most recently, publicly flogged Muslim men accused of disrupting a Hindu festival.”

Thousands of Muslims did get a reprieve from India’s highest court. The court halted a decision by a lower court in Uttarakhand that had approved the eviction of thousands of people who reside in several thousand homes. The neighborhood features schools, a bank, and several mosques and temples. Nearly half of the families claim to have leased the land.

The actions by Narendra Modi’s government do not reflect the values of secularism which India was founded upon. The hatred and vitriol directed at Muslims by Hindu nationalists is increasingly alarming. How can the government deny 200 million people their basic human rights, including employment prospects, just because they don’t worship the same Hindu god? Without protecting the rights of all citizens, India’s democracy is in name only.

Perhaps for many Indians, whether Hindu, Jew, Christian or Muslim, the Gautam Adani scandal might actually lead to lasting structural change.

Asia Maqsood holds a MPhil in Defence and Strategic Studies and a Master's degree in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Asia studied nuclear-related issues at the University of Tennessee. Asia frequently covers China-Pakistan affairs, CPEC, and wider regional issues.