Minorities are an explosive force which if it erupts, can blow up the whole fabric of the state.
~Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Islamophobia as a word is a neologism which translates to an aversion towards Islam. It’s not a new phenomenon considering the track record of the Bharatiya Janata Party during the 2002 Gujarat riots and a follow-up of the last six years they spent as a ruling party in which numerous cases of lynchings, incidences of violence and killings have surfaced. Not to forget the most recent pogrom that took place in North-East Delhi where Muslim colonies were targeted, burnt and looted over a period of several days whilst the government sat hand over another hand and waited for peace to prevail itself. If we go deeper into recent history, we’ll find instances of emotional as well as physical violence inflicted on Muslims especially who voiced their opinions against the discriminatory CAA and NRC.
It’s a brutal and poignant truth that Islamophobia resides in the minds and hearts of the majority of this country. It’s almost a volcano that was waiting to be erupted, and the incident with the Tableeghi Jamaat pricked the balloon and everything spilled out. However, a slight hint of hatred towards the Muslim community already exists within class consciousness, might I add—in choosing your domestic help, picking tenants, making friends etc. The saffron wave sweeping this country off of its morals and misdirecting them has been going strong since the BJP rose to power at the center; rationalizing hate speech and inciting violence on minority communities seems like a schedule now.
A day after the news regarding the Jamaat went viral, several fake videos regarding Muslims trying to spread Coronavirus in India spread out. The alarming fact wasn’t the audacity of state-owned media channels but the belief system of an average Indian who acts out after consuming triggering content. Vegetable sellers have demarcations between kiosks regarding which ones belong to Hindus and which ones belong to Muslims. A middle class Hindu family, when they go out to shop, have tons of Islamophobia internalized in their minds that they end up inquiring about the vendor’s religion. Muslim people living in societies for years are scared to talk about what they think out loud because they fear for their lives.
This attitude isn’t new to Muslims of all socio-economic backgrounds. When we’re in school, we are seen as something different from majority Hindus because we don’t celebrate the things they do. Ugly nicknames are used to refer to Muslims. Our eating habits are critiqued and our beliefs are pushed down. In most cases, our narrative is quite predictable for the majority and that’s because they tell it to themselves and never allow us to have a response to anything. It doesn’t even have to be something enormous in size. Friends joking around insensitively, neighbours not entering our houses because we make meat and being asked if the Hijab makes Muslim women feel oppressive—all qualify for it.
There is this other thing which Muslims are told constantly by their acquaintances. They are told, during general Sunday afternoon conversations about how Islam is solely responsible for terrorism in this world, but at the same time, they also add, ‘You are not like other Muslims‘. This statement is a maze in its own.
What kind of a Muslim do you think I am? What kind of a Muslim do you think other Muslims are?
The ghettoisation of Muslims in areas like Nizamuddin and Shaheen bagh/Jamia area has pushed them towards lives which are highly uncared for, irrespective of which government has power. Don’t mind that last sentence, we are truly cared for, but just before elections. The access to proper living facilities in safe societies isn’t something majority Muslims get because we’re turned away owing to our religion. So most Muslims are found in clusters around cities. Also such living arrangements also help during riots which is a constant thought with which Muslims live.
Lack of funds for living facilities for pogrom survivors, dried up accounts for people living in facilities, giving a virus a communal color—all these are instances of state sponsored Islamophobia. The state is an active participant in fueling mass hysteria towards minority Muslims of the country. It’s an almost shameful pursuit to call this a ‘fear’ of Muslims and not hatred towards them. The invariable and consequent inculcation of this hatred has taken place over the last decade and it’s taking shape now. The hidden dislike has transformed into an upfront choice now. The brazen, snazzy comments and hegemonising taunts have multiplied themselves overnight. The general media and its acclaim of knowledge is a verdict for the misdirected.
The reality is that, this is a fabricated tapestry that has been in the works for a few decades now. Secularism is considered only on paper. And straight from the horse’s mouth, Subramaniam Swamy, a major cog in the machinery of BJP gave an interview to Vice News and openly cleared the air on the issue of equality by deeming Muslims as unequal to Hindus who reside in this world. The mass following and appraisal of these leaders is horrifying and mortifying. This Islamophobia isn’t just a hindrance now, it is life threatening.
This thought process isn’t different from a virus. This country has forgotten what it stands for because it falls under constitutional governance only for namesake. There is nothing secular about buying your vegetables from someone belonging only to Hindu religion just because you’re scared about catching a virus from someone. That is the exact excuse upper-class Hindus are using for their discriminatory acts without realizing how xenophobic they sound.
Imagine how scared this government is of a fourteen percent minority and how hard they have worked on creating these bifurcations—from riots to open debates, paying off media channels and killing journalists who could see ahead of time—this is how BJP has rot this country and rob it off of its essence. This mentality will seep into the minds of their children—what will then be left of the world’s largest ‘democracy’?
I guess we’ll find out.
Featured Image Source: The Transnational