The year 2020 ended with mainstream media reports of an attack on a Hindu Temple, Mandir in the Pakistani frontier province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in India, circulation of videos on social media showing mobs surrounding two mosques in Madhya Pradesh vandalising them, harassing the Muslim worshippers, shouting slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and forcibly conducting Hindu religious rituals.
In the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, there was an outrage from all sections of the society against the incident and the authorities took swift action, the police arresting the miscreants and their leadership, the supreme court deciding to hear the matter within a week and the government’s reassurance to rebuild the temple and not to allow such pogroms against the minority community being repeated.
In the ‘largest democracy’ and secular ‘Republic of India’, the reaction was starkly different, no news in Indian mainstream media, no comments from authorities, no intervention by courts and far from any strict police action, the police tamely accompanied the Hindutva mob, were “mute spectators” and ironically, many Muslims were arrested under the draconian National Security Act, for allegedly reacting with violence when armed Hindutva mobs entered Muslim localities and villages.
South Asia includes the major states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as smaller nations of Sri Lanka and Nepal with centuries old common cultural, linguistic and religious ties.
From time to time, since independence from the British Raj, small groups of bigots have destabilised these countries by creating hatred against their minority communities.
Extremist groups in Pakistan occasionally not only created hysteria against non-Muslim minorities, but were also engaged in sectarian disharmony and violence in the past. However they never got the support of the vast majority of the Muslim population and were reined in by the government authorities.
Similar has been the case in Bangladesh where extremists occasionally attacked Hindus and even those viewed as non-practicing Muslims. However in recent times under Sheikh Hasina, the government itself has been following an anti-Islamic and anti- democratic agenda using the state power to stifle the opposition and incarcerate Islamic leaders.
On the other hand bigotry in so called democratic states of India and Sri Lanka has taken a different route where majoritarian authoritative rule has now been imposed by political parties with fascist grass root support with programs for the oppression of minorities in general and Muslims in particular.
The Sri Lankan government has increasingly come under the influence of extremist Buddhist monks victimising their Muslim minority who had previously lived peacefully in the island country for centuries.
There have been a number of attacks on mosques, Muslim businesses and residences by Buddhist mobs and anti-Muslim legislation has been enacted to including the one forcing the cremation of Muslim dead bodies due to COVID-19.
The worst case scenario of bigotry and hate has taken place in the so called largest democracy in the world, India. The Hindutva fascists who managed to get only up to two seats till 1984 in the national parliament now hold the parliamentarian majority as well as power in a number of states increasing their vote bank based on inciting the Hindu majority against the Muslim minority.
The aim of the Hindu supremacist groups collectively known as the Sangh parivar is to turn India into a Hindu majoritarian state or a Hindu Rashtra, a term which still needs to be defined by its proponents.
One could ask, if Pakistan with a Muslim majority can become an Islamic Republic, why can’t India be turned into a Hindu Rashtra?
Well, Pakistan has gradually aligned its constitution and laws in an effort to reach the utopia of a society based on Islamic values and ideals espoused by a great majority of its citizens.
In his landmark book, “Our Hindu Rashtra: What is it. How we got there”, Aakar Patel, in very much detail describes what is really meant by Hindu Rashtra and how it can never be a reality in pluralistic India.
He claims, “Hindu Rashtra is an illusion. It is also a lie. The name promises something reality will never deliver. When the phrase ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is used by the Sangh parivar and its adherents, something else is meant.”
He then elaborates, “The true meaning of Hindu Rashtra is not to be found in a theory of State or a return to some golden age or a change in the Constitution. It is purely about the exclusion and persecution of India’s minorities, particularly Muslims. That is the only meaning of Hindu Rashtra in India. It imagines India as a Hindu nation where the Muslim and Christian exist on sufferance. That is all there is to Hindu Rashtra in the way Hindutva desires.”
He concludes, “It is hollow and bankrupt as an idea once its content of hate and prejudice is emptied out. The acquisition of authority in Hindu Rashtra is not towards bettering the lives of Hindus but damaging, excluding and handicapping those who are not born Hindu. That is the creeping Hindu Rashtra that we are living in and have lived in for decades.”