Rising Extremism in India

‘The BJP is vigorously preparing for 2019 elections and is already using anti-Muslim violence and rhetoric, lavishly bashing Pakistan and Babri Masjid issue to polarize and gain Hindu sympathies .. several of its members are already issuing threats to Muslims to convert or be prepared to face consequences.” This was stated by British Kashmiri Journalist, Mr. Murtaza Shibli at a Public Talk on “Rising Extremism in India” organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) in collaboration with the Islamabad Council of World Affairs (ICWA), today under its Distinguished Lecture Series.

Mr. Shibli started off with the current situation in India, went through the history briefly and talked about the possibilities of what could happen in 2019 when elections are due in the whole of India – the BJP has given enough indications that it wants to win elections; it has been forcefully converting Muslims into Hinduism, under the Ghar Wapsi (Back to Home) banner in its attempts to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra or a Hindu nation. He also talked about the committee formed by the Modi Government, which functions under the Ministry of Culture, whose aim is to help shape the mentality of the nation and show that India is for and of the Hindus alone by rewriting history altogether. He talked the audience through how the concept of Hindutva was popularised, and highlighted how the RSS has consolidated its hold on the younger Indian generation mind-set through schools and hence managed to cultivate deep-seated hatred.

Mr. Shibli went on to say that in recent years the BJP has been increasing the use of muscle using tools such as violence and threats. Its agenda also includes an escalation of war with Pakistan or instigating a small war with Pakistan – a version of which is currently being played out along the LoC in order to illicit a much bigger reaction. This would jointly benefit India and the US and simultaneously, disadvantage both China and Pakistan and damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. He said that US will find its biggest partners in the region in India and Iran, and will be able to control the warm waters, as well as all the oil and trade routes running through the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Earlier, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman ISSI, in his welcome remarks said that extremism is a disturbing trend worldwide, and that it is, in various form, inherent in the caste ridden Indian society. And, it has come out in the open under the rabid communalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi – there have been 700 incidents of communal violence in 2016 alone. What is more alarming is the fact that discrimination against Muslims has been institutionalised in India in the attitudes and actions of its judiciary, security forces and the Parliament which shows that even now, India is of and for the Hindus alone. Furthermore, Hindutva has transfigured itself in anti-Pakistan activities. Ambassador Mahmood said that big powers having influence on India bear a special responsibility; they should not let strategic interests predominate and put a stop to this dangerous trend in India.

Later, in his concluding remarks, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood reiterated the dangers to the region of extremism in India and pointed out that international actors need to play their role in exposing the veneer of secularism in India.