India is a diversified country that is home to many different languages, faiths, ethnicities, and traditions. The founders advocated a secular ideology of India and believed in “harmony in diversity.” But when Narendra Modi’s BJP won the 2014 general election, the Hindutva ideology gathered steam in Indian politics, and it is today more powerful than ever. The cultural nationalism of the Hindutva movement is more concerned with dominance and power politics than with religion.
Origins of Hindutva and Islamophobia in India
When attempting to comprehend Hindutva as a political ideology, it is important to keep in mind the political environment in which it arose. It was born during the struggle of the subcontinent’s people to free themselves from British colonial rule. Savarkar’s endeavour to define the “self” in these times, as well as to identify the many “others” who were intruders and invaders in the homeland and sacred land of Hindustan, led to the formulation of the Hindutva way of life.
The Hindus called Muslims and all other intruders “Mleccha,” which carried implications of filth and inferiority connected with the outsiders/others, according to Al-Biruni, who travelled to India with Mahmud of Ghazni. Islamophobia rhetoric first appeared in the writings of Savarkar, who saw Muslims as the most difficult of all the Indian minorities because, in his words, “they belong, or believe they belong to a cultural unit completely distinct from the Hindu one.” Their heroes and hero-worship, fairs and festivals, as well as their principles and way of life, are no longer comparable to our own. Those who converted to Islam appear to have other allegiances. So, Muslims living in India are considered as subalterns and have been marginalized in a majoritarian state.
Islamophobia under BJP’s Rule
Hindutva supporters’ anti-Islamic rhetoric has slowly gained electoral traction under Narendra Modi’s leadership. In a 2016 address, the BJP’s State Minister for entrepreneurship and skill development said, “Terrorism will exist as long as there exists Islam in the world. Islam must be eradicated if we are to defeat terrorism”.
Amit Shah, the president of the BJP, stated in 2019, we will guarantee that NRC is implemented throughout the nation. All infiltrators will be expelled from the nation with the exception of followers of Buddha, Hindus, and Sikhs. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state of Assam, which was used to purify the area and send 1.9 million individuals who are now stateless to prison facilities, is the subject of this threat. The evolution of Hindutva doctrine, which expresses a desire to “take back” the imagined and currently split motherland, is reflected in both the change in Kashmir’s legal status in 2019 and the escalation of violent protests in the area. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), approved by the government in 2019, gives fast-tracked Indian citizenship to anyone who entered the country illegally before 2015 and who identify as Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, or Parsi, in addition to Christian from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Islam is excluded under the law. The NRC/CAA should be seen as an imposition of a religious filter on Indian law.
Islamophobia during COVID-19
Other regulations, like those regarding visa overstays, now include a religious biasness. Muslim visa immigrants pay substantially larger fines than non-Muslims do. Even the Bangladeshi embassy employees who had to leave due to COVID-19 were recently punished. Muslim employees were penalized far more than Hindu staff members, who received incredibly modest fines. A “religious” invasion or a Muslim crisis has been used to frame the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This framing was described as “Corona Jihad” or “Corona Terrorism” in the media, which is a classic example of nationalist and ultra-nationalist leaders using catastrophe to inflame racial, cultural, and religious tensions. After the Coronavirus struck India, the Modi administration abruptly declared a lockdown. A conference hosted by the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim reformer organisation, drew participants from all over the world to Delhi. Bhartiya Janata Party supporters started a campaign on social media against Muslims and distributed false information about the Tablighi Jamaat’s role in the coronavirus outbreak in India. To spread this story, hashtags like #Coronajihad and #Quranovirus were used. The Modi administration made no effort to refute these myths. Hindu temples also hosted sizable crowds at the same occasion, but only the Tablighi Jamaat received unfavourable coverage in Indian media.
According to these facts, Islamophobia, as practiced by organizations like the RSS, deviates from the ideals of national cohesion. To the contrary, these precautionary forms represent a dual convergence and rapid expansion of the desire for Islamophobia in connection with the hegemonic goals of the nation and the majoritarian urges of the nation, according to the analysis of the role of the government in critical studies on Islamophobia. In India, communal politics have been around for a while. However, it has risen to new levels under the Modi administration and open Islamophobia is now a component of official government policies.
The Real Subaltern in Majoritarian India
All this demonstrates how Savarkar’s ideas about the self and others are the foundation of Islamophobia within the Hindutva movement. Since their beginnings, these notions of a homogeneous “self” and the Muslim “other” have been applied for political ends. Because of this, Hindutva fundamentalists will always view Muslims as an outsider and a threat. Muslims in India have been represented as an internal adversary in the anti-Islamic discourses examined above, aiming to destabilize India inside and standing in the way of Hindu domination. Thus, in the post-partition era, the Hindutva political agenda transitioned from politics of struggle against colonialism to politics of dominance over all of India’s minorities. The 2020 Delhi riots demonstrated the dangerously high degree of communal tension in India. If the Modi administration keeps pursuing its blatant policies, the country’s social fabric would be torn apart. It will strengthen the feeling of alienation and isolation among the Muslims and India. Hence, Muslims are the real subalterns in a Hindu majoritarian state.