Unlike other parts of the world, globalization in India and Pakistan, could not diminish the religious dimension, rather further fueled the identitarianist contention on religious lines. It is, therefore, against the assumption of the modernization theory that religion would wane down with the intensive expansion of industrialization, urbanization, democratization, and globalization.
Until 1990s, Gandhi’s ‘India’ used secularist coexistence to harness the religious diversity of India, however, self-fulfilling—to prevent further divisions of atavistic Bharat (with revivalist characteristics)like one that created Pakistan. Owing to its ethnic diversity, Pakistan used religion—Islam, an organizing principle that transcended primordial identities and gave spiritual dimension and eternity to the nationhood. But that reliance on religion costed enormous price in the succeeding years. Realizing the loss, with a corrective prescription, Pakistan is now recovering from the scars inflicted by the use of religion for political reasons.
Today’s India is ruled by Rashtariya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) inspired Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), whose Hindu supremacist agenda has divorced Gandhian secularism in favor of a Hindu Rashtra under the banner of Hindutva (Hindu state for Hindu way of life). A glance of which was recently reflected when a senior BJP MP—Subramaniam Swamy, a Harvard PhD, pronounced Muslims as second-class citizens, not equal to the Hindus – ‘two-nation theory’ of Hindu version espoused by RSS ideologue Vinayak Savarkar, in his famous pamphlet “Essentials of Hindutva” in 1923.
Swamy further added that people mandated them to fix India’s ‘Muslim problem,’ again, in line with the founding purpose of RSS. This testimony resonates the sheer majoritarian arrogance—bent on taming the 200 million Muslim minority, whom these xenophobes consider Videshi (foreigner/alien) and the offspring of invaders.
With BJP in power, notable officials and institutions are bending their arc towards the Hindu nationalism. With the help of a pliant supreme court, within six months of its second term, BJP revoked the special status of the only Muslim majority state—Jammu Kashmir, got what it wanted in Ayodhya—the land of flattened Babri Mosque, and passed citizenship act in December, appeasing Hindu zealots with a speed and barefacedness that shocked Muslims and pluralists in India. Narendra Modi—a Hindu Chauvinist, who rose to the ranks from the logistician of L. K. Advani’s epoch-making RathYatra in 1990 that resulted in invocation of identity politics in India, demolition of Babari Mosque, and formation of BJP government in 1996, to the premiership of Indiaby exploiting Hindu-Muslim divisions and delivering communal promises with muscular nationalism.
BJP’s Hindutva project—a brazen Islamophobia and attack on secular ethos, is well-orchestrated and carefully directed against Muslims, whom anti-Muslim bigots like Yogi Adityanath and Amit Shah dehumanize by terming ‘green virus’ and ‘termites’, leaving the lynching to the vigilantes. A section of media, whispered ‘Godi media’ (adopted by BJP), spew hate against Muslims and advocate settling scores with Muslims for their rule over India in the past.
Ultra-nationalist media and BJP bhagats (devotees) mobilize Hindu identity against Muslims on ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ structure and promote ‘Hindustan for Hindus’, therefore, they find no difference between Indian Muslims and Pakistani Muslims and ask Muslims to leave India and go to Pakistan. After the reversal of special status of Muslim majority Kashmir, in a ‘Hindu First’ India, Muslims in India have been put to a religious test—Citizen Act that can land them into detention, or they end up deportation. Machiavellian Modi, in his first term, amplified Muslim threat and pitched himself as a bulwark in a civilizational clash between Hindus and Muslims that provoked 200 million Muslims for the last six years and they are on the streets chanting against the fascist administration.
Recent protests against the CAA, met brute state response in the forms of police raids, physical assault, arsons, and detentions both by implicit police and religiously motivated RSS goons. Commenting on the Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh sit-in by Muslims, Yogi, a Hindu cleric and Chief Minister of the most populous state of India, Uttar Pardesh remarked, “Muslims only know the language of bullet”, another minister B. C. Patel suggested, “kill the traitors”, exhibit the worst Hindu-Muslim divide since partition.
Modi needs to realize that India’s communal fault lines are a Frankenstein monster, once out will be hard to curb, as Robert D. Kaplan spotted that India could lose everything to the Muslim extremism. Albeit these looming threats, BJP’s insistence to pursue Hindutva project at home and repression of Kashmiri Muslims: on one hand, are driving Hindus to the extremism; and on the other, pulling Indian Muslims and Pakistanis towards radicalization.
Fathali Moghaddam terms this process as “symmetrical mutual radicalization”, where a radical move by one is reciprocated by the other, followed by a more extreme response from the first and so on, until an impasse is reached. Mutual radicalization is comprised of three steps: i) group mobilization; ii) extreme ingroup cohesion; and antagonist identity transformations.
BJP’s Hinduization of India divides the cosmology into Hindu and Muslim groups on Us/Them ideologically laden structure that glorifies the Muslim threat against India asking for unity among Hindus. This process reduces Indian Muslims to mere ‘invaders’, ‘occupier’, ‘cow eaters’, ‘temple demolishers’, and ‘Pakistanis’ and denies their ‘Indian-ness’ by depriving them of politico-economic rights, shared social culture, and collective history—alienating them. In the face of these injustices and deprivations, Muslims mobilize their religious identity—‘we’ against the Hindu—‘other’, a threat to Islam and co-religionists placing them in close alliance with Kashmiri Muslims and Pakistanis.
Modi used his first term for identity-oriented group mobilization, and the result of land sliding reelection victory has emboldened vigilantes that can be seen lynching people in broad daylight with complicit state apparatus that let them go unpunished. Amit Shah, Yogi, Parvesh Verma, and Anurag Thakur like figures incite violence against ‘traitors’ and call for Hindu unity against India’s Muslim problem. Similarly, when Kashmiris are treated as Pakistanis and Indian Muslims are asked to go to Pakistan, it mobilizes identity and cognitive conformity around religion—Islam, that demands a united response against the Islamic enemy—Hindu India. The presence of historical grievances (Muslim rule of India and Hindu/Brits collusion against Muslims) in the society further facilitates the rise of hardliners who pretend to act as ideological imperative.
Finally, in BJP’s India, ‘Hindu’ means having a negative and aggressive attitude towards Muslims and Pakistan. This self-righteous radical expression of identity justifies violence against Muslims, be it by fanatic Hindu individuals against Muslims in India or by the Indian state against Kashmiris and Pakistan. Therefore, Ayodhya’s return to the Hindus and hasty passage of CAA by the Indian Parliament validates that India is ruled by implacable Hindu Taliban, who consider these ‘achievements’ equal to avenging the Muslim rule over India.
Similarly, Indian atrocities in Kashmir and stripping their special status is a violent expression of Hindu identity that seeks self-satisfaction by other’s destruction. However, this insidious mentality serves to radicalize Muslims in Kashmir and Pakistan and create more groups, when Hindu bigots in India interpret the Kashmir capture as delivering the unfinished agenda of partition with a triumphal punch against Muslims and Pakistan.
Consequently, Modi’s India, having ignored all the warnings, is willfully drifting into the swamp of radicalism what Pakistan has been recovering from. I am afraid India’s fall into radicalization will inadvertently drag Pakistan into the fold again, as, on the question of identity, it is your rival that put you in ‘other’ camp where you have to act accordingly.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Zahid Mehmood Zahid is Ph.D. Scholar at National Defence University (NDU). He is also part of visiting faculty as Lecturer at National Officers Academy (NOA) NDU, Islamabad. The U.S. Foreign Policy, Political Islam, and Religious Militancy are among his areas of Interest.