The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Hindu fascism is on the rise in India and it’s being embraced and encouraged by Narendra Modi’s government.

India’s increasingly besieged Muslims just marked the 30th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque by Hindu extremists on December 6, 1992. The mosque was built in the 16th century by the Mughal emperor Babur.

The demolition of the mosque three decades ago and the popularity of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) point to two broader indicators. First, India is not a secular state despite its constitutional discourse of secularism, and second, India is a fundamental Hindu ideological state encouraged by successive governments and a complicit judiciary, which has enabled right-wing Hindu fascists to define the parameters of the Hindu faith accepted by the state.

An analytical understanding is required of the historical instances that encouraged radical Hindus to demolish the Babri Masjid mosque and how this trail of events encouraged the far-right BJP to rise and make life difficult for Indian Muslims and anyone else they consider inferior. Matters have deteriorated to the extent that India can no longer be considered a secular state or a truly democratic country despite its constitutional claims.

In December 1949, two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members K.K. Nayyar, the Utter Pradesh Deputy Commissioner, and Guru Datta Singh, the city magistrate, placed Ram and Sita’s idols in the Babri Masjid mosque. The issue went to the courts, which resulted in the closure of the mosque. In another related instance, the District and Session Judge Faizabad, on an appeal by Umesh Chandra Pandey, allowed Hindus to openly worship their idols while the legal case was pending in the Allahabad high court. All this was not happening under the BJP but with the support of the Congress party. It was reported that one of Rajiv Gandhi’s closest allies sent a letter to the judge that Congress would not object to the opening of the mosque. It is pertinent to mention during the demolition of the mosque in 1992, Congress was in power with Prime Minister Narasimha Rao at the helm.

Maloy Krishna Dhar, the former head of India’s Intelligence Bureau, wrote in his book Open Secrets, that he was directed to provide security to the meeting held by Sangh Parivar where the demolition of the mosque was planned. Tapes of the meeting were then provided to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who implicitly approved the plot. The radicalization of Indian society did not stop with the demolition of the mosque; the spread of hatred against Muslims continued unabated.

A primary school mathematics textbook in India has a question for the students: “If 15 Kar Sevaks (Hindu volunteers) demolish the Babri Mosque in 300 days, how many Kar Sevaks will it take to demolish in 15 days?” This shows just how well-orchestrated and wide-reaching the campaign of hatred exists on the state level against minorities in general and Muslims in particular.

Moreover, the hatred is not only against Muslims but also against other religious minorities such as Christians and Sikhs. Aakar Patel, in his book, Our Hindu Rashtra, writes: “Documented attacks against Christians rose from 127 in 2014 to 142 in the later year. It reached 292 in 2018 and 328 in 2019. It was 279 in 2020 and 486 in 2021.”

The elevation of these figures during the Modi-led BJP is alarming and presents a bleak picture where the rights of religious minorities are severely restricted. Likewise, the Citizenship Act 2019 passed in 2019 was another biased initiative where India granted citizenship to six persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, except Muslims. Arundhati Roy, one of the top human rights activists in India, told, “These laws are breaking the back of the constitution.”

Furthermore, the Modi-led BJP government unilaterally revoked Articles 370 and 35A in 2019 which abolished the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. When Kashmiris came out to protest while demanding their fundamental constitutional rights, a curfew was imposed for a prolonged period, and an unprecedented communication blackout existed for two years. Similarly, all political leaders were placed under house arrest.

Above all, a demographic change is underway by the Modi government in the Kashmir valley. Hence, be it the trail of events encouraging RSS members to demolish the Babri Masjid mosque, attacks against Christians, Muslims, and other minorities, or the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A — India is far from the secularism that its constitution provides in theory. The fascist tactics of the BJP against minorities are leading India toward a communal conflict that will have disastrous consequences for India and the whole region.

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is the author of 'The Troubled Triangle: U.S.-Pakistan Relations under the Taliban's Shadow' (Routledge, 2022). He is an Islamabad-based columnist and researcher.