The Muslim-Hindu Divide in India
Muslim and Hindu conflicts have spanned the course of India since its independence. The conflicts have historically flared in parallel with increased tensions between Pakistan and India. Presently, Hindu/Muslim relations are the worst that they have been in decades. The current tensions are related strongly to increased Indo/Pakistani conflicts, particularly centering around the Jammu/Kashmir region, and anti-Muslim rhetoric from leading political parties and leaders, especially surrounding Muslim refugees pouring into India.
Hindu/Muslim relations have far worsened since Prime Minister Modi took office in 2014. 2018 had more ceasefire violations than any year since the cease fire agreement was made in 2003 (Tnn). By the end of the year there were over 1600 recorded violations. 2016 marked another volatile year, with a series of surgical strikes ordered by PM Modi on Pakistani soil. The strikes were glorified through the recent film Uri (Shiksha), a film possibly inflammatory to Muslim viewers. The surgical strike also likely nearly doubled the number of cease fire violations the next year and quadrupled it from the year before the strikes were made. The number continues to rise. Such inflammatory media is well reflected by the political atmosphere. Since Prime Minister Modi took office, militant recruits in Kashmir has increased by nearly 200%. Protests are breaking out in the Kashmir region with violent. One riot in 2016 reported nearly 100 deaths and hundreds more that were maimed or blinded. Many blame hyper-nationalistic speeches from governmental leaders as fuel for the riots. Groups in Kashmir now actively seek to break off from India. Jammu, the neighbor of Kashmir, is predominantly Hindu. In recent times it has been a hotbed of anti-Muslim violence. An 8 year old Muslim girl was gang raped and murdered in Jammu in 2018. Prominent leaders of the BJP supported the actions and attended rallies in the defense of the accused (Chakravarti). All 8 were Hindus, including a police officer (Apoorvanand). The BJP is the Prime Minister’s party and is known for jingoistic attitudes. Prime Minister Modi visited Pakistan for the first time since 2016 just this week, perhaps his first show of good will to the region and associated religion since the government retracted from the disputed region in 2016 (Al-Jazeera).
Recent political climates and rhetoric outside of Kashmir have taken drastic tolls on Hindu/Muslim relations. Historically, Prime Minister Modi has a precedent for marginalizing the Muslim minority. During his time as a chief minister of Gujarat over a thousand people composing mostly of Muslims were slaughtered in the streets during anti-Muslim riotings. Modi and his government did little or nothing to prevent the attacks or pursue justice. Further, Prime Minister Modi is the Prime Minister running from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP is nationalist in nature, and holds that Hinduism should be a part of India’s constitution, an idea called Hindutva. Hinduism’s agenda often conflicts with rights held by other religious groups. Recently serious issues surrounding the consumption of cows has come into question. Socially enforced justice has had a sharp rise. Since 2010 there have been 60 recorded instances of violence over cow related problems. In them there have been a recorded 25 deaths, 84% of which have been Muslim, and of the reported 60 incidences, 97% have been after Prime Minister Modi’s election (Ayyub). This is likely correlated to the large push that PM Modi has made for the outlawing of eating cow across India. That number does not include possibly unreported deaths and incidents of violence.
Further incidents include a series of lynchings of Muslims in 2018 along with rioting and mobs against Muslims. BJP party members have expressed little concern and one official even publicly honored several convicted of lynching a Muslim (Ayyub). In the same report, Ayyub notes that Muslim nationalists are at constant risk of physical harm in India. Apoorvanand, secular writer and professor of Hindi, argues similarly that the justice system has failed Muslims in India. He cites that a number of BJP officials found guilty of crimes against Muslims including but not limited to Murder have been released from prison or had their sentences overturned and have had supporters come out in riots. In his article “India: No Country for Muslims,” Harsh Mander, a human rights activist and journalist who has lectured in a number of Indian and American universities on the subject, supports the idea that the environment allows active or passive disapproval, discrimination against, or attack on Muslims, and that they are often criminalized and labeled as sex offenders, terrorists, and cow eaters. He also tells the story of a man murdered by pick ax and burning with gasoline simply for being a Muslim. Harsh holds that while the man may have been a single instance, his actions were driven by a culture of hatred towards Muslims.
Still the problem deepens with the issue of the Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar into Bangladesh and then into India. They are of a Muslim majority and were facing genocide in Myanmar. They have fled to India and have been labeled as terrorists and illegal Bengalis by the Hindu majority government. They are subject to police brutality, political discrimination, deportation, and resident burnings. They are a group protected by the UN, and as India deports them they not only violate their own national laws, but also UN policy (Kinseth).
Such tensions pose both threat to national security and to Americans living abroad. As violence increases on both sides areas with Muslim populations become increasingly less safe for Americans to reside in or work in, even with NGOs. It also means that students on study abroad for language or cultural training in given areas, especially those studying Urdu could face danger in areas where Urdu is spoken. Further, tensions rising in Kashmir could result in further conflict between India and Pakistan, and American may need to again interfere (as they did in 2008) to prevent war.
Al Jazeera. “India’s Prime Minister Modi Visits Kashmir amid Protests.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. February 04, 2019. Accessed February 08, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/ 2019/02/indias-pm-modi-visits-kashmir-strike-protests-190204074346966.html.
Apoorvanand. “How India’s Institutions Are failing Muslims.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. May 03, 2018. Accessed February 09, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/india- institutions-failing-muslims-180502100321517.html. Ayyub, Rana. “Mobs Are Killing Muslims in India. Why Is No One Stopping Them? |
Ayyub, Rana .” The Guardian. July 20, 2018. Accessed February 08, 2019. https:// www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/20/mobs-killing-muslims-india- narendra-modi-bjp.
Berkley Center for Religion, and Georgetown University. “British Rule and Hindu-Muslim Riots in India: A Reassessment.” Georgetown University. Accessed February 08, 2019. https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/responses/british-rule-and-hindu-muslim-riots-in- india-a-reassessment.
Chakravarty, Ipsita. “The Modi Years: What Happened to Kashmir in the Last Five Years?” Scroll.in – Latest News, In Depth News, India News, Politics News, Indian Cinema, Indian Sports, Culture, Video News. January 27, 2019. Accessed February 08, 2019. https://scroll.in/article/904790/the-modi-years-what-happened-to-kashmir-in-the-last- five-years.
Dey, Abhishek. “‘We Have Lost Everything’: Pre-dawn Blaze Destroys Delhi’s Only Camp for Rohingya Refugees.” Scroll.in – Latest News, In Depth News, India News, Politics News, Indian Cinema, Indian Sports, Culture, Video News. April 15, 2018. Accessed February 09, 2019. https://scroll.in/article/875759/we-have-lost-everything-pre-dawn- blaze-destroys-delhis-only-camp-for-rohingya-refugees.
Mander. “India: No Country for Muslims.” South China Morning Post. December 17, 2017. Accessed February 09, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/ 2124474/india-no-country-muslims.
Kinseth, Ashley Starr. “India’s Rohingya Shame.” GCC News | Al Jazeera. January 29, 2019. Accessed February 09, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/india- rohingya-shame-190125104433377.html.
Shiksha, Shruti. “Uri Trailer: Vicky Kaushal Is Bent On Revenge. His Performance Is Intense.” NDTV.com. December 05, 2018. Accessed February 08, 2019. https://www.ndtv.com/ entertainment/uri-trailer-vicky-kaushal-is-bent-on-revenge-his-performance-is- intense-1958040.
Tnn. “Indian Army Always a Step Ahead of Pakistan: Lt-Gen Ranbir Singh – Times of India ►.” The Times of India. January 18, 2019. Accessed February 08, 2019. https:// timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/indian-army-always-a-step-ahead-of-pakistan-lt-gen/ articleshow/67580377.cms.