“Religion is the opium of the people" is a famous quote by the nineteenth century German philosopher and economist Karl Marx in 1843, which appears so true even in the context of some people and religion even in the modern age scientific innovations and information technological revolution. Probably he made this statement following his belief that religion had some components and practical functions in the society, which were similar to the function of opium in a sick or injured person i.e. it mitigates people's instant suffering giving them sort of pleasant illusions as also temporary will power and strength to carry on. However, the addiction of same opium ruins the same person socially, physically and emotionally in the long run. Marx, however, saw religion as a harmful factor preventing people from seeing the class structure and oppression around them, and thereby preventing from the necessary revolution. Though he derived this analogy in the context of class disparity and establishing equilibrium through revolution; on the contrary, some individuals and groups are now relying on religion to create a new holistic order in the world based on their arbitrary faith.
Current Socio-Religious Uprisings in India
Since independence, the country was ruled by the particular political indispensation for the decades unchallenged. While initiatives like development of heavy industries in the public sector, setting up of ISRO, development of atomic energy, setting up of IITs, and IIMs and so on, by successive governments were indeed very positive and laudable measures, the policy of appeasement of particular minorities at the cost of the majority community and indecision on crucial matters of national importance proved counterproductive during the same period leading to constant socio-religious conflicts and tensions. It was like one ignites a fire, pretends to be firefighting it but neither allows flames to extinguish nor the fire to flare up; thereby, causing smoke and unabated low fire to let everything slowly burn in a time capsule. Constant mishandling of challenging issues gave rise to problems like Islamic radicalization and extirpation of Hindu and Sikh population from Kashmir, unabated naxalite violence in central and eastern parts of India, Ram Janmbhumi - Babri Masjid dispute disrupting communal peace and harmony, rise in social evils like triple talaq and halala among Muslims, and so on.
Consequently, the steps taken by the present political dispensation at the Centre led to complete integration of Jammu & Kashmir through abrogation of Article 370, abolition of social evil triple talaq among Muslims making it punishable offence, resolution of centuries old dispute on Ram Janmbhumi; and, now, the amendment in the Citizenship Act of 1955 paving way for one time settlement and grant of Indian citizenship to all persecuted minorities, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, from the neighbouring Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It’s obvious that these developments have not been received well by some political parties, media and liberal/intellectuals of this country, who made full use of these nagging issues for the decades for the minority appeasement to serve own vested interests. The consequent nemesis is the present spate of agitation and protests mostly by the members of Muslim community against the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).
The most disturbing or rather alarming trend of the recent protests directed against the government, in fact, appear as if they are against the very nation itself. While the trend of “Azadi” and “Pro-Pakistan” slogans had started from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi in 2016 with overt and covert support of the opposition parties, but now they are echoing and replicating similar slogans in all such protests. The slogans like “Chheen ke lenge…Azadi! (We shall snatch…Freedom!)” and “Le ke rahenge...Jinnah-wali Azadi!” (We will force freedom, like what Jinnah did!), are spreading like a deadly viral disease. The initial phase of opposition was marked by angry protests with large scale arson, violence and damage to the public property and life. Now it is turned mostly in the nature of sit-in dharna with the participation of Muslim women and minor children, while men providing logistics and food by staying behind. Staying away from the Madrassas and schools for weeks, anybody can easily observe young girls and boys protesting and talking ill-will about the ruling party and key leaders in places like Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and such other venues elsewhere in the country.
All we know is that the Muslim League and Muhammad Ali Jinnah played the hateful communal politics that ultimately led to the partition of country on religious lines in 1947. The student leaders like Sharjeel Imam and some of his associates with similar ideology appear to be walking on the same course. Imam has been now arrested from Bihar's Jehanabad for sedition under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) following the delivery of many inflammatory speeches at the venues like Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh and the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU); the most objectionable was one in which he talked about five lakhs Muslims coming together to cut Assam and Northeast from the rest of India. Reportedly, the initial investigation and his interrogation by the Delhi police have revealed that Imam is highly radicalized without showing any remorse and believes that India should become an Islamic state. Further, while the sympathetic media talked about the possibility of his seditious videos being morphed but he has admitted that no such tampering has been done with the videos of his speeches. Then there are handful followers expressing their commitment and resolve to see that Imam's dreams (India an Islamic state!) actually fructify.
Some critics and skeptics blame the ruling dispensation that they have not made sincere efforts reaching the protesters to allay their fear and insecurity about the CAA and NRC. The truth is the Prime Minister personally addressed to citizens of India last month in a public rally from the historic Ramlila Ground in Delhi and clarified in a plain and lucid terms all connected issues. The fact is, CAA does not impact any Indian citizen, including Muslims, in any way and NRC has not been discussed even for implementation beyond Assam so for, which was carried out at the direction of the Supreme Court. Sporadic references of NRC by some members of the ruling dispensation alone have formed the basis for the opposition parties and particular community became the basis of current agitation. Many Central ministers too have explained it and assured Indian Muslims that CAA and NRC would not cause any inconvenience to any bonafide citizen of the country. The CAA for the grant of Indian citizenship to religiously persecuted minorities or NRC as a genuine record of Indian citizens are not so complex to understand and it is not the responsibility of the government alone; it is also the responsibility of opposition parties, community leaders and clerics to come forward and explain it in correct perspective to people ignorant of it.
Incidentally, Imam is not the only radicalized youth aspiring to convert India into an Islamic State; instead, many other like-minded associates and radicalized people are engaged in public and social media platforms spreading hateful and inflammatory ideology escalating communal tension and conflicts. These activities appear to be synchronous and in consonance with the terror agenda and hate campaign of Pakistani army and political establishment worldwide, and the ideology of Gazhwa-e-Hind spread by some Pakistani ulema, politicians and professionals. On face, the ongoing protests in India appear to be against the CAA or NRC; but, in reality, it is in retaliation of recent steps taken by the government such as the abrogation of Article 370, abolition of the evil practice of triple talaq and Supreme Court judgment on Ayodhya dispute, which has not gone well with the fundamentalists and radical elements in the community. The aforesaid averment is also vindicated by the fact that the protesters are now increasingly engaged in slogans of "free Kashmir", angry outburst against the removal of Article 370, interference in Sharia matters (abolition of triple talaq), demonetization, etc., and even against the Supreme Court for the recent Ayodhya verdict at protest venues like Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and elsewhere in the country. Though these protests actually started against the Modi government, BJP and RSS but the way agitation is led by people like Imam and organizations like PFI, they are increasingly getting anti-national and communal in content and spirit.
The Religious Persecution of Hindus is not a Myth
India is accredited with not only being the oldest surviving civilization in the modern age but also as a land that has traditionally fostered the spirit of “Vasudhav Kutumbkam (The whole world is one family)” and “Sarva Dharma Sambhav (All faiths lead to the same destination)”. As against this, two Abrahamic religions prevalent and dominating worldwide today have largely followed the philosophy of “me alone” often posing real threat to survival of those who did not subscribe to their ideology and dictat. In sync with the aforesaid ideals and spirit, India has welcomed people or communities irrespective of their colour, creed or belief systems including persecuted ones world over during thousands years of its existence. For instance, a large number of Parsis from the erstwhile Persia (Iran), and Jews and Christians from many Western countries took refuge in India after facing persecution in their homelands and threat of survival for creedal reasons.
Even the oldest and first Hindu scripture Rigveda was very lucid and coherent about the creedal beliefs of human beings. The following hymn is relevant and self-explanatory:
Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti
Agnim yamam matarisvanam ahuh.
(That which exists is One (God); sages call it by various names. This has been true in all ages.) - (Rigveda 1.164.46)
For centuries, several Indian religions and persecuted people elsewhere with their belief systems coexisted without any rivalry or conflict till the new developments during the last millennium on account of Islamic invaders followed by the arrival of Christian missionaries during the colonial era that vitiated the age old religious peace and harmony in the sub-continent. I recall during the parliamentary debate on the Citizenship Amendment of one prominent opposition leader and practicing lawyer’s retort – “where are persecuted minorities?” Similarly, during the recent violent protests against CAA and NRC, some world leaders including the present Prime Minister of Bangladesh and former President of Afghanistan stated that there is no persecution of minorities (mostly Hindu and Sikhs) in their countries. In the light of the aforesaid averments, the author considers it necessary to briefly bring out a few documented facts about religious persecution of Hindus from the past historical perspective as also some more recent events.
The saga of persecution is not merely a year or decade old; instead, it has systematically occurred since Islamic invasion and conquest of various parts of the Indian sub-continent over the last millennium. Till about 1300 years ago, Gandhara was an ancient region ruled by Hindu kings for centuries with Hindu and Buddhist population in the north-west of the ancient Indian subcontinent, which broadly corresponds to present-day north-west Pakistan and north-east Afghanistan. Now only about a thousand Hindus are left in Afghanistan in Kabul and some other bigger cities; so, in a way, the question of persecution has now become irrelevant now. In Bangladesh, Hindus were about 22% of the population at the time of partition in 1947 and now only about 7% of them are left, the position in Pakistan is worse. There are varying and conflicting accounts, but if reports of genocide by Bangladesh authorities during the 1971 civil war in Bangladesh (then East Pakisan) are to be relied on, out of the estimated 3 million people killed and over 2 lakh women raped by the Pakistan army and Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami, most of the casualties were those of Hindu men, women and children. Over ten million refugees with overwhelming majority of Hindus had crossed border to take shelter in the neighbouring Indian states. Finally, India had to perforce join the war of liberation of Bangladesh to stop more atrocities against humanity.
Even if we ignore the ancient/old concept of Akhand Bharat (Undivided India) in ancient Indian literature and as propounded by freedom fighters and writers such as KM Munshi and VD Savarkar in the modern age, sufficient evidences exist to support that the erstwhile Hindu and Buddhist culture prospered right from the Modern Afghanistan to Burma in the West-East and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in the North-South in the Indian sub-continent. Though kings of different dynasties ruled these areas in different time span but they were largely integrated with the common culture and religious bonds of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), other Indian religions being derivatives of the same; the concept of nationalism actually evolved much later in the West. Till seventh century, there were minor conflicts and invasions largely from the unorganized and stray Arab tribal invaders in Sindh and Gandhar areas without significant ruin and political repercussion.
Among the regular and organized invaders, Muhammad Bin Qasim is considered first who invaded Sindh state in 712 AD with considerable success; captured men were executed and their women and children enslaved. A detailed account of Qasim's conquest of Sind is documented in the “Chach Nama”, a 13th-century Persian text. Then in the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni had as many as seventeen expeditions into the Indian subcontinent - a tale of organized killing, plundering and destruction of temples as part of jihad to propagate Islam and extirpate idolatry, the most significant being the loot and destruction of the Somnath Temple, Gujarat in 1026. The period beginning from 1206 AD from Mumluk Dynasty to the end of Mughal Empire in 1857 is a sordid tale of religious persecution of Hindus through imposition of severe taxes, loot, killing, violation of women and systematic destruction of symbols of Hindu culture and religion employing savage means; these excesses remained more pronounced till Aurangzeb’s rule (1658-1707).
Although the majority of Indian historians with left leanings during the British rule and after independence in 1947 have been kind in glorifying Muslim dynasties particularly Mughal period, downplaying excesses of the era; however, the fact cannot be denied that Hindus have experienced religious persecution and systematic violence in the Indian sub-continent all along. This included forced conversion, massacre, violation of women, demolition and desecration of temples and destruction of educational institutions. A few well documented and more pronounced unsavoury and vile events of the era are listed here#.
- During Delhi Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban’s regime, about one lakh Rajputs of Mewat were exterminated through a massacre in 1265.
- Alauddin Khalji ordered the massacre of thirty thousand people of Chittor after besiege and capture of the fort in 1303 and thousands of Rajput women observed Jauhar.
- Firuz Shah Tuglaq ordered his soldiers to kill about one lakh eighty thousand Hindus in Bengal in 1353.
- Bahmani Sultanate soldiers massacred about five lakh Hindus in the districts around Vijayanagara in 1365-66.
- Even before the battle and subsequent causing havoc on Delhi 1398, about one lakh Hindu captives were killed under Timur’s order. He referred to himself as the "Sword of Islam" and according to the estimates of some scholars, his military expeditions caused the deaths of about 17 million people across the globe.
- Under the order of Emperor Akbar, about fourty-eight thousand Rajputs and Hindu peasants were killed in 1560; the historical event is recorded as Massacre of Garha (now Narsinghpur District in MP).
- During seize of the Chittorgarh, about thirty thousand non-combatant Hindus were executed by Akbar’s troops and about eight thousand Rajput women immolated themselves (Jauhar).
- The army of Nader Shah massacred about three lakh civilians in 1738-40.
The aforesaid massacres/killings are not comprehensive but only illustrative account of the religious persecution by the Islamic invaders during the last millennium. Ironically, some self-proclaimed secularist politicians, mediamen and liberals/intellectuals repeatedly cite Gujarat riots of 2002 as massacre of Muslims wherein both Hindus (254) and Muslims (790) suffered but with more casualties of the latter, immediately after Godhra train burning incident, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims including women and children were burnt by an unruly mob of the minority community. But the same secularists never talk about the religious persecution constantly suffered by Hindus and other Indian communities, including more recent events of twentieth century such as Kolkata riots and Noakhali with massacre of 5,000 Hindus in the latter alone in 1946, the genocide of Hindus during 1971 civil war in East Pakistan and killings and extirpation of lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir in 1990s.
Even the partition of India in 1947 was one of the biggest human tragedies on account of the communal hatred and violence which accounted for about two million deaths and more than a lakh rape and violence cases against women, with lakhs of people found missing and unaccounted for; though the communal violence occurred both against Hindus and Muslims as repercussion but most of it was against the Hindus and Sikhs of the newly formed Pakistan. The gory details of the barbarism and inhuman violence have allegory of trains coming from the West Pakistan those days with only corpses of Hindus and Sikhs killed. Thus the religious persecution of Hindus is not a myth but a cruel legacy of the past millennium and a stark reality of the modern age. Lakhs of Hindus and other minorities have taken refuge in India from the neighbouring Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan during the past many decades for the same reason.
Gazhwa-e-Hind and Love Jihad
Ghazwa-e-Hind is an old Arabic Islamic term that refers to the conquest of the whole Indian subcontinent by Muslim warriors quoting Hadith, which is stated to be a compendium of the instructions of Prophet Muhammad and, therefore, the major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran. Not many people in India and elsewhere are aware that several Pakistani Ulemas, Clerics, politicians and professionals in various fields including army constantly and aggressively talk about imminent Ghazwa-e-Hind on India in near future. Here the Ghazwa means a war to kill Kafirs and Hind is the land of Kafirs i.e. Hindus in India. They preach this ideology to Pakistani masses asking them to be ready to wage a war wherein the Idolaters of the Hind (Hindus) will be conquered and wiped out from the face of the Indian subcontinent. A person hearing about Ghazwa-e-Hind for the first time might think it is a cruel joke but it is a reality how minds of common people in Pakistan are systematically turned and tuned against the Hindus and India. When the likes of Sharjeel Imam brood about India as an Islamic state, they are clearly driven by this ideology.
Love Jihad is allegedly an effort by Muslim men in targeting women of other communities, particularly Hindus, by feigning love with an aim of converting them to Islam. The matter invited national attention in India since 2009 in the context of certain cases of conversions in Kerala and Karnataka. The matter further flared up when Justice KT Sankaran of the Kerala High Court refused to accept the state DGP’s report in one case and concluded from a case diary of the forced conversions and "concerted effort" to convert women with the "blessings of some outfits". While hearing bail plea of two accused in "love jihad" cases, the Court also observed that there had been 3,000-4,000 such conversions in past four years. The case was, however, closed by Justice M. Sasidharan Nambiar in the absence of conclusive evidence.
In case of Akhila Ashokan (now Hadiya), a missing 24 year old homeopathic medical student from Vaikom, Kerala, married to a Muslim man, converted to Islam in 2016 and was found staying with the president of the woman wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), a radical Muslim organization. In May 2017, the Kerala High Court annulled Hadiya’s marriage based on a report of the National Investigating Agency but the Supreme Court reversed the decision In March 2018 restoring her inter-religion marriage. Recently, it was revealed that three top lawyers of the Supreme Court fought her husband’s case and received rupees 92 lakhs (approximately) funded by PFI; one of them Kapil Sibal, advocate and former Congress Cabinet Minister had lion’s share with 77 lakhs as client fees. Needless to mention, it is the same ISI (Resurrected SIMI), an extremist and militant Islamic fundamentalist organization, which is considered to be main force with manpower and material support behind the current agitation against CAA and NRC in various parts of the country.
While rise in love jihad cases in India is of relatively recent phenomenon, the abduction, forced conversion and love jihad has occurred for decades in the neighbouring Islamic countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh. In a heart-rending incident in 2016, one Hindu girl rescued from abductors was sold by a police official to another person. Few days later, she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to another man. According to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 2018, the southern Sindh province alone had over 1,000 forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls. Annual Report 2013 of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) pointed out that minority Hindus in Pakistan are vulnerable to kidnapping, rapes, and forced conversions of Hindu women, including minors with 15 to 20 kidnapping cases reported every month. According to the Pakistan Hindu Council, forced religious conversions are one of the main reasons for large scale migration of Hindus from Pakistan to India.
While politicians, media and intellectuals/liberals with vested interests may continue to have bizarre opinion and contentious debate whether the religious persecution, Gazhwa-e-Hind or Love Jihad are mere fictions or real threats to the secularism and people of India, the unpalatable truth is that lakhs of minority refugees (mostly Hindus and Sikhs) from the neighbouring Islamic countries are forced to live in inhumane and miserable living conditions at shoddy and shabby temporary establishments in various parts of the country in the absence of citizenship and consequential benefits. They cannot go back to familiar hostile surroundings again in the home country and face continuous hostility and wrath of the hypocrites and pseudo-secularists in India too. The tally of such unfortunate people is ever increasing with unabated violence, forced conversion and threat to women of the family in these countries. Only recently, the first list containing about fourty thousand such refugees has been sent by the Government of Uttar Pradesh to the Centre.
On the other hand, hoards of illegal immigrants from the neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar for the decades have not only competed with the original inhabitants for the livelihood and other resources but also posed social and cultural threat to the very existence mny tribals in their own homeland in Assam and other smaller states of northeast. Many of these people have penetrated far interior lands in central and north India in cities like NCR Delhi, Lucknow, and so on. Sometime back, reports came about thousands of illegal Rohingya people living in Jammu region in extreme north, many of them have even obtained identity and ration cards with connivance of local officials and agencies promoting them. Such people could easily be distinguished with their spoken language, attire and social habits. Many parts of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Western Uttar Pradesh, tribal regions of central and east India are showing significant demographic and cultural changes over a period.
While self-proclaimed Indian secularists and liberals are supporting ill-conceived and ill-illogical agitation against CAA and NRC for their self-interests and socio-political gains, but the kinds of protests at Shaheen Bagh and anti-national action of people like Sharjeel Imam is only widening rift among the communities which might become a major cause of serious socio-religious conflicts in future. While the majority population of Hindus and Muslims, or for that matter any other community, want to live in peace and harmony but handful people with poisonous minds and evil intent often dominate and vitiate the entire atmosphere. In this context, a recent tweet of the German Maria Wirth, a blogger and fond follower of Hinduism and ingrained spirituality, citing a quote from a Iranian friend is relevant where she says that that only 10 % in Iran believe in Islam but this minority manages to keep the others in check because it's so oppressive.
A small group of radicalized people, silence or indifference of the community leaders and inaction of the state can cause ruins to the entire society. This is what happened in Kashmir in 1990s and this could happen elsewhere in future. In the aforesaid backdrop, few radicalized and militant people conceptualizing and brooding over the idea of making India an Islamic state is potentially a very dangerous preposition fraught with grave risks. Every action has a matching reaction and, perhaps, the reason why currently the social media is abuzz with hateful speeches, messages and sporadic communal violence here and there. People from all walks playing communal card for own vested interests in India need to timely realize and desist from such activities and the state needs to act against such elements with heavy hands to avoid more deterioration risking large scale conflicts and violence. India has no future as an Islamic state; only genuine democracy and secularism can ensure peace, harmony and prosperity of a diverse country like India.
# Source: Wikipedia