By Syed Zafar Mehdi
Since the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India in 2014, it has sought to make the Muslim vote irrelevant and in the process devalue the country's secular values, says a journalist and analyst.
In an interview with the Press TV website, Sanjay Kapoor, a New Delhi-based journalist and former general secretary of the Editors Guild of India, said the Hindutva project in India is "visible more in terms of how ordinary people view the minorities", which he termed worrying.
"We don’t know what the Hindutva project really entails. Would it mean the disenfranchisement of the minorities or would they be driven out," the editor of Hard News magazine remarked.
"Also, would that be possible in a vast country like India where democracy exists and elections take place every 5 years. There’s a possibility of the BJP doing badly in the next elections. If that happens then what happens to the project."
There has been a spate of anti-Muslim violence in India in recent weeks, including a mosque being razed down, an Imam shot dead, a young Muslim doctor thrashed and molested by a Hindu mob, and a railway officer killing three Muslim men.
Last Monday, 22-year-old Mohammad Saad, an Imam, was murdered inside a mosque by a right wing Hindu mob in the city of Gurugram on the outskirts of New Delhi. The mosque was also burned down.
It came after 23-year-old Zarin Khan, a physiotherapist from the central state of Madhya Pradesh, was brutally assaulted and molested by four Hindu men, ending up unconscious in hospital.
In another gut-wrenching incident on Monday in BJP-ruled northern Uttar Pradesh state, a railway officer passed through the train carriages, identified three Muslim men and shot them dead in a blatant hate crime.
“They operate from Pakistan,” the assailant was heard saying in the video. “If you want to live in India, you must vote for (PM Narendra) Modi and (CM Aditynath) Yogi.”
Such incidents have assumed alarming proportions in India in recent years under the right-wing BJP government led by Modi.
Kapoor said these extremist Hindutva groups feel emboldened by the fact that the BJP government is in power at the center.
Commenting on the recent incident in Mewat, Haryana, the New Delhi-based journalist and political commentator said the area is preponderantly Muslim and "has been in the crosshairs of the Hindu radical ever since the BJP came to power."
"There have been a few lynchings of alleged cow smugglers by (Hindu) vigilantes. Many of them have gone away scot-free. This impunity to the lynchers has rankled the (Muslim) residents of Mewat," he explained.
"In some ways, the latest violence is due to a video of a lyncher accompanied by a provocative march through Mewat by Hindu radical outfits. The peace here was tenuous all this while, but this place has the potential to blow up."
There have also been incidents of violence targeting the minority Christian community, especially in northeast India.
More than 100 people have been killed in last three months in northeastern state of Manipur, most of them Christians. The violence was triggered by sexual assault against a Christian woman by Hindu men.
Kapoor said that the common understanding is that" in a democracy, parties that resort to majoritarian politics reinterpret history and use it for polarizing the society."
"In variable, minorities bear the brunt of this divisive campaign," he told the Press TV website.
On what is required to help India reclaim its democratic secular credentials, the Indian journalist said a secular India "is a work in progress."
"What it needs are strong democratic institutions. Whenever these institutions get undermined by those who will benefit from majoritarian politics then the problem arises," he noted.
"Democracy provides a solution to these issues if free and fair elections take place."
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