Over the past 8 months, more than 2 million people from across India have had their citizenships revoked and now face almost certain imprisonment in the government’s internment camps. Most of these people were born, and raised in India yet their entire livelihood has been upended since the release of India’s National Registry of Citizens at the end of last year. The government states that its mission to ‘find undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh’ requires those left off the registry to prove citizenship. However, most of the omitted names are those of the Islamic faith, and many of them do not have documents to prove their identity. Unfortunately, those who cannot show proof of citizenship would be deemed a “foreign migrant” and forced into one of India’s newest detention centres, regardless of age.
Although the government has released a bill that carves out exemptions for Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and those of other religions; Muslims are not included in this bill. And while these Muslims can technically lodge an appeal with the tribunals created by the Indian government, the process is messy due to a widespread lack of documents and the sheer amount of appeals. As such, the process itself has been deemed “biased and discriminatory” by human rights organisations across the world such as Amnesty International.
This blatant attempt to deport and persecute Muslims is just another part of the government’s ultra-Hindu nationalist agenda. Ashutosh Varshney, head of Brown University’s South Asia program stated that India, “in all probability and unless checked is headed toward a Hindu nationalist, majoritarian state.” Not only do these bills serve to physically divide the country, they are part of the government’s plan to exacerbate the ideological divide between Muslims and Hindus. The rise in Hindu nationalism caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, have prompted a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country.
On April 6th 2019, last year, 19-year-old Mohammad Shalik was tied to a pole and beaten to death because of his romantic relationship with a Hindu girl; three months later, 15-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed to death inside a train during an argument about religious identity; and just five days later, 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari was beaten and lynched by a Hindu mob in Jharkland. These crimes have continued on a fairly regular basis since Modi’s election, and the prime minister’s newest and legal form of discrimination only serves to justify these acts.
This active persecution of Muslims has also catalyzed a huge movement of Indian refugees, the scale of which has not been seen since Word War II. And countries across the world will soon feel the ripple effects of this diaspora. Combined with the 700,000 refugees from Rohingya, the 6.6 million from Syria, and another 2.5 million from Afghanistan, Modi’s policies will elevate the world’s refugee crisis to historic proportions. But the countries surrounding India, simply won’t be able to handle it. Bangladesh’s foreign minister has stated, “we are already in much difficulty with the [Rohingya refugees], so we can’t take anymore… Bangladesh is already the most densely populated country on the planet.” However, it does not look like the flow of Muslim refugees will be stopping any time soon.
Modi and his party champion a hard-line branch of Hindu nationalism known as Hindutva, which aims to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu history and values. Although members of his party have been known to refer to the Muslim population in derogatory terms such as “termites” and “infiltrators” he recently won his second term in office by running on these ultra-nationalist ideologies. Since then, he has fulfilled many of his campaign promises which includes erasing the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, while promising to build a Hindu temple at the site of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya.
The situation in India continues to worsen for the Muslim population and it is not long before the ramifications will explode onto the world stage. Modi’s actions have gone unchecked, and will only intensify the refugee crisis, and justify the imprisonment of Muslims in other parts of the world, such as China. At the same time his form of ultra-nationalism serves to fuel other discriminatory forms of nationalism. Unless the Hindu majority decides to stand up for the Muslim minority, Modi and his inflammatory administration will only continue to decimate the Muslim population.
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