Alone. Hounded. Sledged. Mobbed. Harassed. Heckled. Jeered. Harrowed. Threatened. Sieged. Terrorized. And many more. This is a sample of what happened to a girl student Muskan Khan in Karnataka, India, as she entered her college. This is a sample of what is happening in many Indian oppressed areas. This is a sample of how deep and wide the Hindutva atrocity has spread. This is a sample of how the educated youth of India have been poisoned by the hate movement of RSS that is patronized by Modi and BJP. This is a sample of the brewing danger of divisive, destructive Islamophobia that endangers 250 million Muslims living in India.
This video may seem a girl/boy April foolery in colleges, but it is not. It is about a veil. It is about a personal choice. It is about safety. It is about self-esteem. It is about a horrific violence being egged on. This simple but obnoxious visual has unplugged not just the mute world but even the Indian voices. Famous Indian filmmaker Pooja Bhatt spoke candidly. “As always, it takes a pack of men to attempt to intimidate a woman. Such frightened, pathetic excuses for human beings. Brandishing their shawls as weapons, cloaking their weakness in cruelty. A sizeable section of a rudderless generation lost to hate”. These words of “A rudderless generation lost to hate” are the real alarm, danger, disaster RSS is creating with its violence and Indian government is facilitating with its silence.
The Indian government’s silence is understandable but the world’s reluctance is incomprehensible. That is why a continuous effort to unmask and strip the Indian Hindutva reality beneath the veneer of modernity and secularity needs to be highlighted repeatedly. While there may be some voices against his bigotry many are in favour of it, thus creating a division beyond just the veil:
1. RSS fear mongering— Fear, force and fight are the most used tools of RSS the organization that is inspired by Hitler’s Nazi party and has its roots in BJP. Anybody not toeing the RSS line is on the hit list either electorally, or physically or politically. When some famous actors spoke in favour of Muskan, the film fraternity MPs of BJP had to tow the party line. Film star-turned-politician MP from Mandya, Sumalatha Ambareesh, who was elected as an independent candidate with support from the BJP, criticized girls’ right to wear the hijab by calling it politics “to poison young, innocent and impressionable minds.” She added that one could “wear a bikini on a beach or a pool but cannot wear it in school.” In a similar vein, another film star BJP-MP Hema Malini called for respect for the school’s uniform code by declaring that religious matters need not be taken to educational institutions.
2. Islamophobia support— Despite this being a clear human rights violation, West’s silence on such issues is not only explained by India’s market might but the West’s own growing Islamophobia trends. France was the first country to ban niqabs in 2011 in public places. It has remained a contentious issue and has now encouraged further discrimination and exclusion. The 2011 bill has now been amended to include hijabs in sports players. The amendment was originally introduced by the right-wing party Les Républicains. It was adopted on January 2019 by the Senate with 160 votes to 143, saying that “Islamism is spreading in prayer rooms, mosques, homes and now in sports clubs!”. Although the court has given a verdict against this law, it just goes to show the western covert support for India and the consequent silence on violence and violation of basic human rights.
3. Election Compulsion— Modi’s government failed horribly in Corona crisis. India became horror house of dearth, death and destruction. Wrong policies of lockdown, disregard of poor, ill-planned health management made Indian economy crash and Indian image smash. With nothing to offer and sell, India’s state elections are only based on one rhetoric – anti-Muslim, anti- minority. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi, who belongs to the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), declared that the state’s upcoming assembly election can be described as “80 versus 20 percent”. This is a clear majoritarian call. A call to fight, destroy and rule. A victory of Hindus over Muslims. This call to action is a deliberate violence trigger to make the economy and other issues irrelevant.
Incidents like Muskan Khan are rays of hope. They question bigotry. They question hypocrisy. They provoke human conscience. They say the unsaid. They show the hidden. They question the unquestionable. Many such moments of truth happen and they are lost due to a lack of sustainable approach. The three pronged approach to ensure this is:
1. Unplug the debate— Topics become trends, trends become viral, virality induces big names to tweet on them, TV and print report on them and but then they peter out. This danger is also possible in the Muskan khan case. That is why it is important that this debate upgrades itself rather than fades into archives. To do so the small, suppressed incidents that are cropping up all over India must remain alive, loud and resonating. Schools all over India are forcing girls to leave their hijabs. The real debate is that if never before ban was the school rule, why impose it now? The real debate is how did the school allow orange scarves to be worn by jeering boys? Where did that gear come from? Why are such mindsets being cultivated and that too in a school environment? The court is supposed to give a judgement. The implications of that judgement should be debated fearlessly and unapologetically to encourage an uproar that asserts that religious freedoms cannot be suppressed.
2. Unveil the damage to other religions— Hindutva hate ideology/racial superiority is not only against Muslims but against other minorities too especially Christians living in India. The western softness for India should be countered by showing how Christians are also suffering. Christians are being blamed for forcibly converting poor Hindus and tribal people to Christianity. This is turning public opinion against Christian communities. Christian Sunday prayers are being disrupted repeatedly, churches are being attacked, priests are being beaten up. Such incidents were seen in states all across the country, from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi in the north, to Karnataka in the South. According to United Christian Forum, at least 460 attacks against Christians have been recorded in the past year in India. This is where a joint forum can be formed against Islamophobia and Christian phobia. Statements by Russian and Canadian heads are the start and more similar minded leaders can be convinced to join against the Hindutva hegemony in Modi’s India.
3. Unmask common civil associations— Global human rights forum have all reacted to Muskan khan’s incident. Malala has spoken against it. The female French football players are part of the activist group ‘The Hijabeuses’, a group of female football players fighting for the right to wear a hijab in official matches. They will champion this cause as well. Amnesty international and HR Watch can be approached for expanding this group to advocate female right to wear, to play, to practice religion.
Many such poignant moments come and go. They are potentially defining moments. We must convert these moments to movements to make history than to be just history.Andleeb Abbas, "UnVeiled, UnMasked, UnPlugged Indian Hindutva," Business Recorder. 2022-02-21.
Keywords: Political science , Christian communities , United christian , Bharatiya Janata , Terrorized , Muskan Khan , Pooja Bhatt , Uttar Pradesh , Modi , India , RSS , BJP