The news cycle this week has been taken up with the rapidly escalating violence in Haryana’s Gurugram, Mewat, and Nuh. This is occurring against the backdrop of months of violence in the state of Manipur, where the hill-dwelling Christian Kuki tribals are facing an onslaught by the dominant Hindu Meitei community of the plains. Ever since the BJP assumed power under the leadership of Modi in 2014, such instances of collective violence and terrorization of minorities (especially Muslims) has become commonplace in India. This comes as no surprise given the RSS-BJP’s ideology and the fact that it has been putting ‘fascism with Indian characteristics’ in practice for the past nine years that it has been in power at the Centre and various states.
Predictable reproduction of anti-Muslim violence
Haryana is hardly the first state to witness the mobilization of Hindus against Muslims. The saffron-clad mobs going about the streets in tandem with the online mobs have been a constant in public life on one pretext or the other. In context of Haryana, news has it that the violence was set off by a Hindu procession being pelted with stones, allegedly by Muslims. The animosity and violence were then aggravated by social media posts and talk of known lyncher, anti-Muslim bigot, and self-appointed cow vigilante Monu Manesar calling on his ‘followers’ to participate in further mobilizations that target Muslims.
In a systematic collusion to erase Muslim identity and visibility, Hindutva groups in Gurugram have previously campaigned against Muslims offering prayers in public while the administration has capitulated.
The administration’s response and actions in the current violence are all too predictable. Anti-establishment voices online claim that the police are ignoring violence and its incitement. Late-night attacks and looting of homes is being reported, along with arrests of Muslim youth. As expected, “law and order” became the excuse to shut down the internet (but not the right-wing TV channels and their ceaseless anti-Muslim tirades), making you wonder whether social media platforms and not the governments at the city and state level are responsible for maintaining order. One may reasonably believe that the true intent of these internet shutdowns is to prevent any communication and documentation of events that may go against the grain of the official narrative and the political interests of the forces orchestrating the violence.
The Hindutva right-wing is always on the lookout for ways to present Muslims as a threat to the Hindus and the ‘nation’ as a whole, which by virtue of having a common enemy are assumed to be interchangeable in their imagination. The Allegations of attacks by Muslims on Hindu ‘processions’ has a history that goes all the way back to the pre-Independence era and is meant to underscore the fear of Muslims as a threat to Hindus. More recently, this tactic of mobilizing Hindu mobs with hostile intent and then painting them as a religious procession was deployed in 2021 when Muslims and their homes and properties were targeted in the wake of Ram Navami ‘celebrations’ in as many as six states, and the same pattern played out in the state of Tripura that year. What inevitably follows in the destruction of Muslim homes, shops, and mosques, either by Hindutva mobs or more blatantly with the State itself razing their houses with bulldozers.
Victimizers as victims
A cynical ploy by the Bajrang Dal, VHP, and their political protectors is to falsify and invert the historical reality of Brahmanical oppression of oppressed castes, religious minorities, and women and claim instead that it is they who are oppressed. At present, Twitter is awash with posts claiming that these militant groups are the ‘first line of defence’ and calls for unconditional and “unapologetic” support for them. This is very clearly a pushback against a growing rejection of their lawless actions and the illegitimate pressure that they are able to exert on public life thanks to the hands that hold their reins.
This language of ‘Hindus under attack’ being in need of protection and defence is meant to reflexively justify the aims and methods of such groups. The reality, however, is that these militant groups function as the muscle of the Hindutva agenda while its ideologues present their unprovoked aggression against Muslims and minorities as desperate self-defence on behalf of an entire ‘community’. While they may cynically allege that the violence in Nuh, Mewat, and Gurugram is being perpetrated with Hindus as the target, in actuality it is they who instigate and initiate the violence in order to make possible the very spectacles which they use as an example of Hindu victimization.
These appeals to a sense of being constantly under threat by undesirable minorities are calculated to cement their own legitimacy and to allow them to stake claim as the sole representatives of ‘Hindu interests’.
The false category of ‘Hindu’
It must be emphasized that the word ‘Hindu’ is an imaginary category and a rhetorical stand-in to express the political goals of Brahmanism in a religious idiom. The first census of 1831 made it clear that numerical strength would be of great significance the new politics of the subcontinent, prompting the savarna (upper-caste) overlords of this supposed religion to consolidate the greatest possible headcount under the umbrella term of ‘Hindu’. Any attempts to destabilize this consolidation and expose ‘Hinduism’ as an opportunistic unification is met with fierce resistance.
The Brahmanical Hindutva forces know that this concocted Hindu identity is a cornerstone of their ploy to project their interests as the desires of the ‘majority’ and ‘the nation’. This explains why there has not been a Census since 2011: the politically strong OBCs have raised a demand for the enumeration of caste groups that cannot be easily shunted aside. This anxiety to ride atop the poorly-put-together Frankenstein monster of Hinduism is what causes Brahmanism such consternation at the imagined menace of Muslims and Christians going around converting people from their ‘original’ religion into theirs.
In the end, popular resistance under a common banner of socialism, Ambedkarism, and women’s leadership is the only effective counter to the Hindutva onslaught that is backed by nearly unlimited financial resources and muscle. An electoral opposition such as the recently consolidated “INDIA” has no ideological alternative and has only a limited utility.
Arjun Banerjee is a writer and journalist.