It is 7:00 AM in Houston February 27th, the sun is bright and the breeze is cold. As I sit in the patio like I do every day, I go through hundreds of messages and news clips on my phone. Images of blood soaked body of a young bearded Muslim man being thrashed and tossed mercilessly by a group of Hindutva fanatics in India’s capital New Delhi, is too graphic to watch. I go to the next message and I see dozens of lifeless bodies of young Muslim men being beaten-up with rods and canes. Shocked at the brutal images, I scroll to the next, and see groups of Muslim women and children helplessly watching their houses burn to ashes. Businesses ruined to a rubble, journalists attacked, police randomly firing in all directions, breaking CCTV cameras, and hurling profanities at Muslim men and women. I can watch no more. With every scroll, a new story of unthinkable savagery unfolds. How could a country which holds its animals sacred let an 85 year old Muslim woman burn alive? It is disbelief at first, then acceptance of the tragedy and finally the realization that India is no more. More than 40 people are dead and hundreds injured. The excessive display of hatred in New Delhi, is an obvious result of unrestrained accretion of loathing fostered by the BJP-RSS ideologies. The ambassadors of hate Modi-Shah-Yogi have been fueling the vulnerable for years. Their fans idealize Hindutva elite and in attempts of seeking recognition from their “Dear Leader” call for arms against the Muslims on a daily basis. Sadly, fascists have succeeded in steering India away from its founding ideals of tolerance and pluralism. This is the beginning, more mayhem can be expected and genocide seems inevitable.
As expected from Modi government, no repercussions for disruption of peace or requests for restraint are released, despite open provocation and calls for violence by their own leaders. This is in sharp contrast to hundreds of arrests of Muslim and Dalit leaders in Delhi, Lucknow and elsewhere. But expecting justice is perhaps too ambitious considering present Indian leadership which is nothing short of a “Who’s Who” line-up of fascists. Prime Minister Modi, himself is regarded as the architect of 2002 Gujarat pogrom who showed no remorse or compassion for the Muslim victims and was quoted to call Muslim refugee camps as “child bearing factories”, while scores of women wept in silence enduring the pain and traumatic memories of sexual violence inflicted by Hindutva forces. Prime Minister Modi has not once apologized for his crimes, to expect him or his second-in-command to do anything but to let the Delhi pogrom continue is more than expected.
India stands conflicted at the intersection of a democratic past versus a Hindutva future. Time will tell whether the Indian values of tolerance prevail or fascism succeeds. What perplexes me greatly is to see anti-Indian-Muslim sentiment highly prevalent among people of Indian origin residing in the United States, commonly referred as non-resident Indians (NRIs). I participated in a protest against the citizenship amendment act (CAA) at the Indian consulate in Houston on December 20th, 2019. It was surprising to hear my fellow NRIs chanting, “Babur ki auladon ko, goli maaro salon ko” (Kill all Indian Muslims). The pro-CAA group argues that CAA is rooted in compassion and inclusion and that CAA protests are therefore, morally wrong and politically mislead, then why the goli maaro (kill all Muslims) slogans? What about compassion and inclusion? It is ridiculous to see NRIs who enjoy freedom and equality in the United States do not wish the same for India. Anti-Indian Muslim sentiments of NRIs is worrisome. Why do they, some of whom may be our own friends who we grew up with, hate Indian Muslims?
Few years ago an old Indian friend of mine created a WhatsApp group of old school mates. I thought this was a great idea and immediately agreed to be part of this group of some 50 friends scattered all over the world. At first, it felt great to be re-connected but gradually the underlying Muslim hatred creeped up. It was evident that the hatred was focused on Indian Muslims. I often tried to engage in candid conversations with some of them with the idea of trying to understand the basis of their hate. Some of the questions I was bombarded with and the statements I heard, have truly blown me away. “You guys (Muslims) wanted Pakistan, we gave it, so, why do you still live in India?, “Pakistan is an Islamic republic, you don’t create a commotion over that, so why do you have a problem with India being a Hindu nation?”, ‘Osama Bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan, do you agree?”, “Where were you when Kashmiri pundits were driven away from Kashmir?”. “You are a Pakistani”, “You are an enemy of India”, ‘Taj Mahal is the temple of Shiva”, “Biryani and Shahi paneer (popular Indian dishes) should be removed from all restaurant menus”, and so on and so forth.
As evident from the aforementioned, the conversations quickly transformed from being harmless to all too toxic and frankly stupid to continue. These friends who I grew up with are very clear in their hate for Indian Muslims and unified in their love for Mr. Modi. While I can understand their infatuation with Modi, their lack of coherence in their hatred for Indian Muslims was the one that disturbed me the most. It seemed to me that they are not exactly sure why they hate Indian Muslims, it’s just that they do. Some have a problem with the Mughal history, others with Muslim head coverings, some with public praying, some with what Muslims eat and the rest blame Muslims for some sort of an unidentified negative vibe. Jeez, how do you remove a hatred of this nature that you can’t even put your hands on, as to what is it that they actually hate about Indian Muslims.
To them, being true Indian is to hate Pakistan first, to endorse continued persecution of Kashmiris comes next, to equate Muslims with terrorism is the third and labeling Islam as a cult rather than a faith is final. Oh, and did I mention- dismissing Muslim contribution in India’s freedom struggle, denying any role of Muslims in nation building or any positive role in science and technology, art and literature is a must. If you don’t agree with any of these things, then you are dubbed as a “secular”. Well that’s great, I would like to be known as a secular. But here is the problem, apparently per Hindutva vocabulary “secular” stands for “traitor”, and a “moron”. Synonyms include “enemy”, “terrorist”. And, “hate speech” is patriotism and “violence” is nationalism. India is no more, the India that I knew.
Dr. Samina Salim was born and raised in India and lives in Houston, Texas. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Houston.