The obscene statements made by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party spokespersons, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), could not have been a fluke. The words, which cannot be reprinted owing to their blasphemy, have offended the sentiments of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. Still, such reckless statements will not be tolerated in civilized communities.
Hatred against minorities, particularly Muslims, has flourished under India’s ruling regime. Muslims have been subjected to numerous forms of discrimination by Hindutva forces since 2014 in order to suffocate their identity, Islamic symbols, and places of worship. Hindutva xenophobia is so rampant that it has infiltrated the government. To appease the Hindutva overlords, the civil bureaucracy has been heavily influenced. In India, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is leading the charge, while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is the Hindu nationalist order’s worldwide arm.
Since the BJP took office in 2014, hate speech and assaults against Muslims have increased dramatically. Sharma’s and Jindal’s harsh remarks, according to the BBC, reflect the country’s severe religious divide over the last few years. Their remarks, particularly Sharma’s, enraged the country’s minority Muslim community, sparking intermittent protests in a few regions. Sharma’s words were not repeated by the BBC since they were “offensive in character.”
Provocative conversations have aired on Indian television stations, and the matter has sparked widespread hatred on social media. Many members of right-wing organizations make inflammatory remarks on television, but detractors argue that Sharma was not a “fringe element” as the BJP claims. Sharma was an official BJP spokeswoman, supporting the party’s views; hence, what she stated reaffirmed the RSS-led Hindu majoritarian worldview towards Muslims.
In Muslim nations, the BJP leaders’ disparaging remarks about Islam and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) have sparked diplomatic fury. At least five Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates) have issued formal objections against India; Pakistan, Indonesia, and Afghanistan have also severely objected to the two BJP officials’ statements. Anger has erupted on social media, with several Arab countries calling for a boycott of Indian goods. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, anti-India hashtags have been trending, and the event has been the top topic in their news outlets. Some retailers in Qatar and Kuwait have also been reported to be removing Indian merchandise from their shelves.
The statements were made in the “background of rising intolerance and abuse toward Islam in India, as well as systematic actions against Muslims,” according to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The Indian Charge d’Affaires was called in Pakistan, and a strong protest was registered against the top BJP officials’ unethical and disparaging statements, which damaged the feelings of the whole Muslim population. The Indian government should not allow “such radicals to denigrate Islam and offend the sensibilities of Muslims,” according to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
“Over the years, Indian Muslims have often been attacked for everything from their food and clothing style to inter-religious marriages,” according to an ABC investigation. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have both cautioned that the attacks might get worse. They’ve also accused Modi’s ruling party of turning a blind eye and occasionally promoting hate speech against Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people but are nonetheless the world’s second-largest Muslim community.
Minorities, particularly Muslims, are denied citizenship as a result of the Citizens’ Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Over 1.9 million Indian Muslims have already been de-notified as Bangladeshi nationals in Assam. Non-Muslim immigrants, on the other hand, are awarded citizenship under these discriminatory policies. Such actions go counter to the Indian Constitution as well as international norms.
Whether it’s the illegal annexation of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) on August 5, 2019, which heightened tensions with Pakistan and China; or showing the Nepalese territory of Kalapani as India’s, the RSS has an elaborate hate-based agenda in the neighborhood that has only heightened tensions. Because Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were disqualified from becoming Indian citizens, the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) provoked a rift with these nations.
Even impartial Hindu critics who really seek secular politics and equal rights for the country’s residents are not safe in today’s India. Those commenters are not only shunned but also threatened physically. The RSS, which, in addition to toeing the Hindutva doctrine, is also fostering xenophobia in India, has effectively hijacked the Indian electronic and print media.
The United States International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) voiced worry over the fate of minorities, especially Muslims, in 2019. Sanctions against India’s Home Minister Amit Shah and other prominent authorities were suggested. However, due to multibillion-dollar weapons agreements that the US military-industrial complex was hunting for in India, Trump and Biden’s administrations conveniently dismissed USCIRF’s warnings.
In a report to Congress on worldwide religious freedom issued throughout June, the US State Department said that attacks on members of minority groups, including deaths, assaults, and intimidation, occurred in India in 2021.
Qatar has also stated that “hurting Muslim emotions might have a direct impact on economic ties,” which has already led to a boycott of Indian products in GCC nations. In 2020-21, India’s trade with the GCC was estimated to be approximately $90 billion. Millions of Indians reside and work in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, which provide $80 billion in remittances to India. As a result, India would have no choice but to restrict Hindutva radicals’ hate-mongering agenda.
Since the RSS-led government took control in India, anti-minority sentiment has risen, particularly towards Muslims. The insulting statements made by BJP spokespersons, as well as the strong reaction they elicited from Muslim nations, might have major consequences for India and the Islamic world. Provocations like this have the potential to escalate into larger fights. The saner elements in India must caution the forces of hatred to be respectful of India’s minorities, and their ideologues and spokespersons must refrain from propagating hatred in order to increase their vote bank in the country.