Indian Muslim and the Politics of Hindu Right-wing 

Mohmad Waseem Malla Indian Muslims

Of the right-wing assertions of varied denominations globally, the political rise of Hindutva has led to significant transformations in the country’s socio-religious and political landscape. While in the western context, this right-wing political ascension manifests in the growing Islamophobia, in the Indian context, this has resulted in the everyday denigration of Muslims with the added fears of their socio-political marginalization. It presents Indian Muslims, despite their significant population numbering above 172 million, with severe challenges in their socio-religious existence. However, anti-Muslim campaigns of the Hindutva right-wing forces led by Rashtriya Swayam Sevaks (RSS) gained momentum during the late 1980s, the overwhelming electoral consolidation by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its political face, during 2014 election and 2019 that ensures systematic backing of these forces.

The intensely pervasive hate and denigration have resulted in the marginalization of Muslims and created conditions where collective security becomes a priority for the community. In turn, it results in the relegation of Muslims from the social and political spaces. The Hindu right-wing ecosystem has successfully ensured that any political party or formation that tries to accost Muslims are projected as an anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim party, or to the least, their actions are being propagated as Muslim appeasement. It results in scepticism on the part of these political parties in maintaining any association with the Muslims, which consequently works towards the delegitimization of the Muslim political space by the Hindu right-wing. On the other side, the BJP, by consolidating the Hindu vote, also busted what political pundits and psephologists would earlier call Muslim vote banks by rendering it irrelevant in broader political calculations. These complex circumstances also created differences amongst the Muslim intelligentsia in working out a collective response to these structural attempts of political marginalization.

On the pedestal of the political executive, the Hindutva nationalist BJP has not only continued with its disdain of Muslims through political rhetoric but worked actively to take legal cum other systemic measures to ensure their demonization. One such legal instrument that the government of India pushed through its parliament is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, which denies refugee status for Muslims only. The fact remains that the most impoverished citizens lack documentary evidence to establish their forefathers having been residents of India. However, what BJP intends and the broader Hindutva ecosystem desires to achieve through these legislations in consonance with their pet project of National Citizens Register (NCR) is to single out only Muslims and label them as foreigners and lock them up in camps. Therefore, these legislations are potent weapons in the hands of the Hindutva executive with the potential to criminalize Muslims.

The continued hostility and marginalization of the Muslims has resulted in the spatial segregation of the society with separate Muslim and Hindu areas within the same localities in most of the urban areas across the regions. The issue has received continued attention from the media as well as academics. There are no unwritten rules of keeping away Muslim families from most of the posh areas across the major cities, with even socio-politically elite Muslim classes being denied the housing spaces.

The prevalent systematic marginalization of the community presents the Muslim intelligentsia and the political actors with limited ways to face these realities. One is to completely withdraw from the socio-public spaces and relegate to the margins, a situation that essentially remains the motivation of the Hindutva forces and which should not be even considered. The second could be band-wagoning with ‘secular’ centrists like Indian National Congress (INC) or Left parties. It was being experimented with since 1947 but was exploited by these groups for their political ends while doing nothing substantial for the community’s upliftment. The Government of India even substantiates this appointed the Sachar committee report. Had these parties been sincere in their motivations towards the community, Indian Muslims would not be facing what they are today, and indeed, the socio-economic parameters would have improved. An unfortunate reality, these groups considered Muslims for long as their fiefs who needed to be represented.

The other alternative is to forge solidarity within the community and then join hands with other minorities and credible political actors to work out a political alliance. This does have political dividends, as has been manifested by Asaduddin Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) through its performance in Maharashtra and Bihar. While it is evident that this approach would earn Muslims censure from centrist forces and Hindutva alike, it would prove beneficial in the long run. The time has come for the Indian Muslim community to represent their interests themselves rather than letting other groups take advantage of the community’s circumstances. For those groups and their classic orientalist imagination, Muslims can’t and therefore needed to be represented.

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