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Othered and Oppressed: Living as a Muslim in today’s India

In 2014, when Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi came to power, there was a sense of cautious optimism, but it quickly turned into a nightmare as the darker realities of this regime unfolded.

Fatima hasan23 May 2024 08:34

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

As I reflect on the past decade, I am amazed to see how the fear, discrimination and a constant sense of being othered have gradually seeped into the minds of Indian Muslims, something which was not so common before. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people whose minds have also been filled with anger, hatred and contempt for "the outsiders." 

Here is the war of ideologies that has become a glaring truth today. In 2014, when Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi came to power, there was a sense of cautious optimism, but it quickly turned into a nightmare as the darker realities of this regime unfolded.

It’s 2024, and as the 18th Lok Sabha election unfolds, the possibility of another term of Hindutva outfit RSS-backed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems unsettling.

Modi’s call for a “new India” that began with the motto of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”, has now become a hollow slogan, which is completely devoid of any real meaning or commitment to inclusivity, as the pro-Hindutva government has systematically marginalized and targeted religious minorities. 

The slogan “Ab ki Baar, Modi Sarkar”, is a haunting reminder of divisiveness and discrimination that has ensued since Modi came to power.

The sense of insecurity which was already felt by the community, increased manifolds when the Dadri lynching incident happened in September 2015. Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh, was brutally attacked by a mob who claimed to be cow vigilantes alleging that he had stored beef in his home. This incident set the tone for years to come, as since then, many such ‘Akhlaqs’ have been lynched, attacked, and killed in the name of religion. 

Interestingly, while cow slaughter is prohibited in large parts of India, some states do not make it a crime punishable by law which includes Kerala, West Bengal, Goa and northeastern states. This makes me think, whether the devotion to a particular God is bound by state borders?

The crime against minority community have been very well documented which has greatly escalated in the past 10 years. According to IndiaSpend, there have been 117 incidents of cow vigilantism related violence since 2015. The Quint reported that 88 people have been lynched in the past nine years across the country.

Despite significant reportage of violence, there is an apathy from government and law enforcement agencies because of which the Hindutva goons have further emboldened their acts of violence.

Being a Muslim woman, I have witnessed a change in dynamics in places and people that I usually interacted with. The conversations, people, and streets of my own country, which once felt safe and welcoming has now turned hostile and threatening. The fear of being attacked while I am walking or travelling in a country for which I have deep love for, is extremely saddening. This was not the India I grew up in.

The discrimination is visible and has now reached the younger generation as well. My nephews and nieces, as young as 5 years old have experienced exclusion and hatred from their classmates and neighbors, something which I never experienced.

And this has happened, because of the indoctrination of masses by the Hindu nationalist regime on an unprecedented scale. The media, which is supposed to be the fourth pillar of democracy, is devouring the social fabric of India like never before. Day in and day out, they spew venom and hatred, a phenomenon that can be related to the Hitler’s Germany.

The sense of being excluded, othered, being outsiders is palpable, and it seems that every institution in this country has become a bastion of Hindutva ideology.

The impact of this hostile environment is far-reaching and deeply personal. It has not just affected the present, but the future of India. As the Hindu nationalist party stands on the brink of a potential third term, I wonder what future does India hold? A future where my country thrives on inclusivity and diversity or is destructed by division and hatred.


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