Indian Muslims Are Marginalised As Modi Set To Win General Election

Results from this year’s mammoth seven-stage general election in India will be revealed on the 4th June. Unsurprisingly, it looks all but certain that current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will be re-elected for a third term. Despite being a popular choice for the majority of the country since taking power in 2014, Modi, at the head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has allowed India to become increasingly Islamophobic. By enacting policies such as the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which paves the way for non-Muslim immigrants to gain citizenship, and touting conspiracy theories like the “love jihad”, which claims that Muslim men seduce Hindu women to convert them to Islam, Modi has created an atmosphere where India’s largest minority of 200 million Muslims have become marginalised.

Modi, who is “convinced that ‘Parmatma (God) sent me for a purpose,” has denied any claims of spreading hate speech or condoning the mistreatment of minorities. Yet Indian Muslims have witnessed a dramatic increase in anti-Islamic hate since 2014. This includes verbal harassment, having their businesses targeted, and being physically attacked and killed by Hindu mobs. Islamophobia in India has spread to such an extent that journalist Zeyad Masroor Khan, in his book City on Fire: A Boyhood in Aligarh, says that most Muslims in India have “picked a country where they would run to when the inevitable happens.”

Modi and his party claim that they have not incited anti-Muslim hatred in India. However, it is clear that their rhetoric uses Islamophobic tropes and the poor treatment of Muslims has become so normalised that in an interview with the BBC, a resident of Agra said that “in the beginning I thought [the Islamophobia]… would pass. That was ten years ago.” In a region with Russia, China and North Korea, much of the Western world sees India as an important ally. Western powers, therefore, tend to be far too lenient towards Modi and the ‘world’s largest democracy’. They rarely dare criticise a nation that many consider to be a nascent superpower, and a useful counterweight to growing Russian and Chinese influence.

Anti-Muslim bigotry has existed in India throughout history. Factors that precipitated this prejudice are the multiple Islamic conquests of India that took place from the 13th to the 18th century, along with anti-muslim policies that the British implemented during their rule over the subcontinent. However, it is the recent rise of Hindu nationalist parties (the BJP being the most popular) that has been the main cause for the surge of Islamophobia throughout the country.

It is worth noting that not all Hindus and non-Muslim Indians are Islamophobic or intend to marginalise the Muslim community in India. However, in a country that discriminates against the largest Muslim minority in the world, something has to change. It is all but certain that Modi will win his third term on the 4th June, and with most of the international community unwilling to hold him accountable, the burden rests on ordinary people to press for meaningful change. Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews must band together and confront their Prime Minister. Only then will the plague of Islamophobia slowly subside in India.