Fear in India
Fear in India
Nilanjana Bhowmick writes about the violence that is a threat to India’s democracy.
Burnt cars left in Shiv Vihar from the 2020 Delhi riots. Credit: Banswalhemant
Riots are often in the headlines in India. In the period 11-20 April 2022, there was violence between Hindus and Muslims in several states. This was at the same time as two important Hindu festivals – Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti. Now Hindu hardliners see important festivals as a chance to fight Muslims. Only one community pays the price for the fighting – the Muslims.
After fighting on 11 April 2022 in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, the authorities demolished properties and homes owned mostly by Muslims. They blamed the Muslims for the violence. On 16 April, during a Hanuman Jayanti festival, there was fighting again between Hindus and Muslims in Jahangirpuri, Delhi. A few days later, the authorities used bulldozers to demolish what they called ‘illegal encroachments’ – in other words, Muslim homes and businesses. Amnesty International said the demolitions happened without any notice or ‘other legal requirements’. A Supreme Court order did not stop the bulldozers.
The fighting is a threat to our difficult, multicultural democracy. For many years, Indian politicians have exploited the Hindu-Muslim problem for political power. In 2014, the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power with a big majority. Since then, the Hindu-Muslim problem has been a weapon more than before.
The fighting is not new but how often and predictable it is, especially during Hindu festivals. For the first time, the state is so obviously silent and indirectly plays a part. This violence is there to create a culture of fear. The fear is of each other and, for Muslims and their allies, fear of the state. It is also a way of controlling and making worse the anger of the ordinary Indian – both Hindu and Muslim. This anger is now on autopilot.
Strongman politicians now rule India and they are experts at exploiting the country’s various religious and caste problems to create uncertainty and fear. Research shows that these conditions can make people radical in their religious beliefs and especially for people feeling the most hopeless about their lives.
Ordinary Indian people have been hopeless about their lives for many years. Governments have not helped them. They were so easy to exploit. How else can we explain the way these people accept the ideas?
The destruction of property and homes and other ideas, for example, threats by a Hindu ‘seer’ to mass rape Muslim women, all point towards 2024. Then Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hope to stay in power. By that time, the government will try to confuse the memory of the deadly second wave of Covid-19 that killed thousands with the religious riots. We know that sometimes the BJP’s vote goes up when there is violence in the year before an election. After the government failed in the way it handled the second wave of Covid, the PM’s popularity went down. Since April 2022, his popularity is going up quickly again. We know what to expect between 2022 and 2024 – more organized anger and riots.
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(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)