200,000 hard-line Hindu protesters congregated in New Delhi demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi commit to building a grand Hindu temple on the site of a 16th century Mosque destroyed by a mob in 1992. The site in Ayodhya, where Hindus believe their deity Lord Ram was born, has become the locus of anti-muslim normalization under Modi’s right-wing Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Demonstrators carried the banner of the World Hindu Congress (WHC), or Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an organization with strong ties to the BJP. In the 1980s, this marginal party rose to prominence with its calls to build a grand temple in place of the 460-year-old mosque, believed to have contributed towards the riot which destroyed the mosque.
This protest is merely a mass demonstration of the state-backed anti-muslim ideology that has come to characterize Indian politics and society since the election of Modi and the BJP in 2014. Earlier this year, the Indian Supreme Court condemned the spread of Hindu mob lynching of Muslims across India. From 2010 to 2017, 24 Muslims have been killed by Hindu mobs, with most incidents occurring after India’s PM came to power. Far from a unified condemnation of the violence, at least two BJP ministers have come out in support of the violence. One of these ministers was C.P. Singh who justified a violent mob attack on Swami Agnivesh, a former Hindu member of the Legislative Assembly. Agnivesh was a social activist on issues ranging from female foeticide to slavery and forced labour. Singh justified the actions of the BJP youth wing, the perpetrators of the attack, stating that “He [Agnivesh] talks against Hindus…makes anti-national comments, supports Kashmiri separatists and Naxals.” Another of Modi’s ministers, Jayant Sihna, honoured 8 Hindu men accused of lynching and killing a Muslim man.
With elections just six months away, it appears that Modi and the BJP may remain in power for another four years. This is a dangerous proposition for the 147 million Muslims who will continue to be ruled by the conservative PM. It is not just the errant BJP ministers who support anti-Muslim violence. In 2002, when Modi was the head of the state of Gujarat, hundreds of Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs without repercussion. Many fear that anti-Muslim sentiments lie at the heart of the BJP conservative Hindu ideology. Its legacy of support by both omission and commission of mass killings throughout the nation endangers the Muslim population who are, by virtue of their minority, relatively powerless to ensure their own safety.