The recent years has seen increasing attacks on minorities particularly the Muslims. This seems to be aimed at achieving the BJP regimes intended aim of reducing the minority spaces in the socio-political-cultural and economic life and their engagement and participation as equal members of the nation-state.
Psycho-cultural spaces: The severest form of attack has been on the psycho-cultural-spaces. In the passing of CAA and plans to implement NRC is its attempt to link religion with citizenship. In the name of according citizenship to persecuted minorities in neighbouring countries (excluding Muslims) it shows that it aims to see the largest minority in India as lesser citizens. This is an attack on the psycho-cultural identity Indian nation-state by the minority. The psychological spaces of identifying with the nation state irrespective of religion or minority status has been reduced.
Economic spaces: The recent period saw the talk of banning Muslim traders near temples. The saffron outfits such as Sauhardha Samithi demanded that there should be a ban on Muslim vendors opening shops near temples. Muslim shops near temples were vandalised by outfits such as Ramsene. This agenda is being pushed in the latest Hindutva lab namely Karnataka and might also get implemented in other BJP ruled states. There has also been talk of boycotting Muslims in fruit business. Chandru Moger of Janajagruti Samithi urged Hindus to purchase fruits only from Hindu vendors and end monopoly of Muslims in fruit business. Such efforts are an attempt at reducing the economic spaces of minorities.
Physical spaces: Gurgaon has 100 open spaces where Friday prayers were offered without any objection by other religious communities. These have now been reduced to 23. It started with disruptions of Friday prayers by Sanyukt Hindu Sangarsh Samithi (SHSS) affiliated to RSS which demanded a ban on the same. Haryana Chief Minister Manoharlal Khattar stated “namaz in open spaces will not be tolerated”. The intervention by BJP government in the state led to reduction of physical spaces where the Muslims could offer prayers. This is an attack on use of physical spaces to offer prayers.
Spiritual spaces: The recent period has also seen increasing attacks on usage of loudspeakers during Ajaan. While this could still be resolved based on consultations between communities from the point of noise pollution dimension, the Hindutva outfits have threatened to use loudspeakers and recite hanuman chalisa at the time when Ajaan is recited. This at a time when it does not talk about similar sound generated during Hindu festivities. Such attempts are an effort at reducing the spiritual spaces of expression.
Cultural spaces: Food habits form a part of the cultural space of minority communities. The most recent attack on the cultural spaces was the demand for meat ban during Navratri. Mr. Pravesh Verma the BJP MP suggested closing of meat shops across India during the nine-day festival. While vegetarianism during Navratri by Hindu population may exist, this ignored the other side. This coincided with Ramadan where meat is a part of the iftar or an evening meal practiced by the Muslims. Such ban during the peak of Ramdan does hinder the cultural practice. The demand for meat ban ignored this fact.
Similarly there was demand on ban on halal certification. The Hindutva outfit Hindu Janajagruthi Samithi in Karnataka demanded a ban on halal certified products and suggested they would take recourse to halal certification. It stated that animals are killed by offering to Allah and in this process is offensive to Hindu to offer meat to their gods. Instead it demanded for consumption of Jatka meat. In the process of advocating against halal meat is the attempt to reduce the significance of a Muslim practice. Currently halal is a thriving industry in comparison to Jatka. Ban on Hijab in Karnataka also falls in line with reducing spaces for a cultural practice.
The recent period also saw an outrage at use of urdu language in the film industry and a call for boycotting Khans. Social media posts belonging to Hindu right wing see usage of urdu in films as that of influence of Muslims in film industry. Hence they call for eliminating the same and to bring in more usage of Hindi. Usage of urdu is associated with Muslims and Hindi with Hindus and hence the demand. Similarly, it demands boycott of Bollywood which it sees as something which does not respect Hindu culture, represents Muslims the star Muslim actors such as Khans, the Muslim poets etc. These are aimed at reducing the cultural spaces of Muslims in popular culture.
Political spaces: The BJP which has emerged as the largest party went without a Muslim MP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Similarly in the recently concluded UP Assembly elections, there was no representation of Muslim from BJP. These are intended at reducing the political spaces of minorities.
While there is no doubt that any public inconvenience need to be restrained due to practices whether by the majority or minority, the recent trends only indicate that the regime intends to reduce the minority spaces in the process of establishing majoritarianism. It goes against the basic constitutional values of according equal respect to all religions.
T Navin is an independent writer