Pushed to the wall
Actor Naseeruddin Shah warns of civil war as Modi’s BJP aims to dismantle minorities
Iconic Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah, born into a Sayyid Muslim family of Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, has warned of civil war in Narendra Modi’s India if attempts for a Muslim genocide and ethnic cleansing continue. This statemet from Shah, one of the most respectable performing artistes of India who made history in the role of Mirza Ghalib in a Dur Drashan Tv serial more than three decades ago, is a serious warning for the incumbent government and a stark reminder that the Muslim community will not be taking things lying down anymore.
Leaders of hardline fundamental militants of Hindutva, supporters of BJP, during a three-day gathering of Dharam Sansad in mid-December at Haridvar, an important Hindu pilgrimage site, had called for ethnic cleansing of minorities in India, especially the country’s 200 million Muslims, according to local media and online videos of the event, This widespread outrage and calls were made to trigger violent action against the minorities, especially Muslims. However, some observers are linking the hate speech against Muslims with the upcoming state elections in UP, where the communal card plays a key role.
Speaker Sadhvi Annapurna, general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha (Hindu Grand Assembly), called for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims living in the country. According to The Wire report, addressing the gathering, he said, “Nothing is possible without weapons. If you want to eliminate their population then kill them. Be ready to kill and be ready to go to jail. Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs [two million] of them [Muslims], then we will be victorious, and go to jail.”
Reacting to the hate speeches made at the Dharam Sansad, Shah in a much publicized interview said, “I wonder if they know what they are talking about? 200 million are going to fight back. We belong here. We were born here and we will live here. So it could lead to an open civil war.
“If it comes to the crunch, we will fight back… If it comes to that, we will. We are defending our homes, our family, our children,” the actor said while talking to a prominent Indian journalist Karan Thapar in a talk show telecast by The Wire, an Indian news website.
When Thapar put the question, “What does it feel like to be a Muslim in Narendra Modi’s India?” He said, “Muslims are being marginalised and made redundant. A concerted attempt is being made to make Muslims insecure. It’s an attempt to make us scared.”
He told the interviewer, “An attempt is being made to spread a phobia among Muslims”, but “We must not admit this is frightening us.” To a question, he said he did not feel insecure because that was his home but he was concerned about the future of his children.
Shah, the recipient of India’s highest awards Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, cannot be wrong. He must be heard. He is not only a Muslim but also a patriot Indian. He has a reason as he advocates communal harmony, and cherishes the rich history of Muslims and their august contributions. Three of their greatest achievements came during the Mughal era: Urdu, Mirza Ghalib and the Taj Mahal. Parallels of these cannot be found to this day.
According to reports, speakers at the Daharam Sansad cited the example of mass atrocities of 2017 against Rohingya Muslims and their exodus from Myanmar and called for a similar policy to enable ethnic cleansing of Muslims in India.
“Like in Myanmar, the police here, the politicians here, the army and every Hindu must pick up weapons and we will have to conduct this cleanliness drive (ethnic cleansing). There is no solution apart from this,” said Swami Prabodhanand Giri, head of the Hindu Raksha Sena [Save Hindu Army], a far-right group based in northern Uttarakhand state. The report added.
Talking about Prime Minister Modi’s total silence after the bloodcurdling calls for genocide and ethnic cleansing, Naseeruddin Shah said, “he doesn’t care” adding rather circastingly“at least you cannot accuse him of being a hypocrite”.
It may be mentioned here that since Modi came to power in 2014, Hindu mobs have lynched dozens of people — mainly Muslims— suspected of illegally transporting cows or consuming beef. They also developed a conspiracy theory and named it ‘Love Jihad’, a theory that Muslims are luring Hindu women with the aim of conversion and eventually national domination. In recent months, Hindu mobs have targeted Muslims praying on Fridays in northern India over ‘love jihad’.
Meanwhile, Pakistan summoned the Indian Charge d’ Affaires at the ministry of foreign affairs to voice serious concerns over the widely reported open call by Hindutva proponents for carrying out genocide of Indian Muslims. “India is expected to investigate these hate speeches and incidents of widespread violence against minorities, particularly Muslims and their houses of worship and take measures to stop such incidents from recurring in future,” the foreign office statement said.
Islamabad has also called on the international community, including the United Nations, OIC and relevant human rights organisations, to hold India accountable for its gross and systematic human rights violations against minorities, particularly Muslims and take immediate action to save them from the impending genocide.
While a government investigation into what happened at Dharam Sansad in mid-December in Haridvar is still pending, the Delhi police have registered a case after getting a complaint from journalist Ismat Ara, whose name is also listed on the Bulli Bai app. Hundreds of images of Muslim women were uploaded to the app on the open software development site GitHub, and users are asked to take part in an “auction.”
According to reports, the account has been blocked by GitHub and the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and police authorities are coordinating further action, says Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Twitter. Many social media users voiced support for the women, arguing that the purpose of targeting Muslim women is to cause physical and mental agony. Many claimed the people behind the apps are fundamental militants of Hindutva.
Inciting violence is a crime in India, but speakers at Dharam Sansad remain free. The police know it very well that these leaders have the protection of the ruling political class. One wonders what is happening in India, where law enforcement authorities are investigating journalists over tweets and the sons of celebrities and Muslim public figures over alleged marijuana possession, instead of going after fanatics calling for mass murder.
Indian leaders love to talk about Mahatma Gandhi when they travel abroad. They define India as a land of peace and love. Gandhi and his ideas also came up when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Joe Biden at the White House on Sept. 24, and received him with Gandhi’s message of non-violence, respect and tolerance, saying, “His message matters today maybe more than it ever has.” In his speech to the United Nations, Modi said, “The world faces the threat of regressive thinking and extremism,” and underlined his country’s democratic credentials. To reinforce his point, he even coined a new sobriquet for India: “The mother of all democracies.”
This was in the backdrop of hundreds of Muslims being killed in India. Thousands were rendered homeless in Gujrat when Modi was the chief minister in 2002. His anti-Muslim policies still continue unabated. Even the United Nations human rights Chief Michelle Bachelet confirmed, “We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis.”
Experts say anti-Muslim sentiments have been heightened under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda since elected to power in 2014. After Modi was reelected in 2019, the government has pushed controversial policies that critics say explicitly ignore the rights of Muslims and are effectively intended to disenfranchise millions of them. The moves have sparked protests in India and have drawn international condemnation.
Hindu nationalism was first introduced in the 1920s by Indian author and politician V. D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva. Hindu nationalists believe Hindus are the “true sons of the soil” because their holy lands are in India, whereas the Christian and Muslim holy lands are outside it. They advocate policies that are intended to make India a Hindu state. Many of them see Indian Muslims as foreigners. With this belief getting popular with every passing day, Naseeruddin Shah’s statement that Modi’s attempts towards ethnic cleansing may ultimately result in a civil war stands on solid ground.
India is also losing grounds in South Asia as Modi tries to convert the country into a Hindu state. PJP government’s complete silence over the atrocities against the Muslim minority has weakened India’s traditional leadership role of India’s founding father Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. The hard-line attitude of PJP and its allies toward Muslims has severely dented the nation’s reputation as a voice for tolerance in South Asia. Though things are moving towards a dead end, there’s a ray of hope when you see Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, losing his position for defending a Muslim colleague who was targeted for his faith.
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