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Plight of Minorities – Comparative Analysis of India and Pakistan

By C Andrew

India, claiming to be the largest democracy and a secular country has become a hell for religious minorities as well as lower caste Hindus since Modi government came into power. Modi Administration has not only revived the concept of Hindutva to convert the country into a Hindu state but also started persecution of religious minorities especially of Muslims besides targeting lower caste Hindus – Dalits and Sikhs. It is pertinent to mention that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar laid the foundations of Hindu nationalism in 1923 when his seminal work Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? became the source of principles that shaped the ideology of Hindu nationalism. This was followed by the establishment of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925, aimed at ensuring the unity of Hindu community to form Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). After independence, the RSS came up with its own political wing, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, but failed to mobilise the Hindu community to form Hindu Rashtra. However, the RSS had a rebirth in 1980 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was launched as its political face. Since then, it has successfully socialised its narrative within the Indian society, aimed at the marginalisation of minorities. Babri Mosque incident of 1992 and anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 reflects the gradual internalisation of extremist narrative propagated by the RSS and the BJP.

Narendra Modi, a staunch advocate of the establishment of Hindutva as the dominant ideology in secular India, assumed power as the prime minister in 2014. Under Modi administration, according to India’s home ministry, in 2015 India experienced a 17% increase in communal violence. Mob-killing became the order of the day — of 63 attacks reported since 2010, 61 took place under Modi’s government. Hinduisation of India has damaged the professed secular fabric of society, resulting in inequality, political and administrative discrimination, patriarchal control, threats to the physical security of minorities and consolidation of exclusionary practices. “However, the reality is far different. In fact, India’s pluralistic tradition faces serious challenges … (and) during the past few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations have increased in some areas of India.” The study notes that of India’s 1.2 billion people nearly 80 percent are Hindus, with an estimated 172.2 million Muslims, 27.8 million Christians, 20.8 million Sikhs, and 4.5 million Jains. The Muslim population makes India the third largest Muslim country in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan.

Of late, the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission has tallied 134 attacks on Christians or their churches in the first half of 2016, nearly as many as the annual totals for both 2014 and 2015. As far as the Muslims are concerned, they were targeted on the basis of land disputes, their traditional livelihoods selling beef or cow products, and social interaction with Hindus. In this regard, several well-known authors, filmmakers and other civil society members returned national and State sponsored awards to protest; what they said was the growing religious and cultural intolerance in the country. It is important to mention that the passage of the Maharashtra law banning cow slaughter and beef distribution and consumption as a State government initiative disproportionately affecting Muslims, who have traditionally dominated the beef and buffalo meat trade. After Hindu mob killing of an individual accused of cow slaughter in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, religious groups reported official hate speeches against Muslims increased. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar remarked that Muslims can stay in India, but they will have to give up eating beef. Mostly, Muslims live in India deprived of basic necessities such as electricity, roads and municipal services. In some States such as Maharashtra, banks denied loans to Muslim businessmen. Muslim face worse discrimination in respect of jobs.

The religious persecution, social discrimination is a major problem in India. Dalit people are considered ‘untouchable’; most higher caste people would not marry a Dalit, invite them into their home or share food with them. Dalit children sit separately from other children in schools. Almost 1 out of every 3 govt schools in rural areas, prohibits children from sitting together. Dalits are prevented from entering police stations in 27.6% of rural villages, Public health workers refuse to enter Dalit homes in 1 out of 3 rural villages, almost half of Dalit villages are denied access to water sources, Dalit and non-Dalit people cannot eat together in 70% of rural villages. It is claimed that there are 260 million Dalit people around the world out of which 200 million live in India. Dalit people are at the bottom of Hindu hierarchical caste system. Although, Indian law prohibits discrimination and violence against Dalit people, in reality, atrocities are a daily occurrence. As per crude statistics, in every week, 13 Dalits are murdered, 5 Dalit homes are burnt, 6 Dalits

are kidnapped or abducted, 21 Dalit women are raped. It is also estimated that a crime is committed against a Dalit person every 18 minutes.

In complete contrast to India, all groups of minority people in Pakistan enjoy socially and politically privileged position. There is roughly 3 million Hindu population, out of which 75% are Dalits, belonging to various castes with most prominent being Meghwars, Odhs, Valmikis, Kohlis and Bhils. In a recent development, Ms Krishna Kumari Kolhi (a Dalit from Tharparkar) became a member of the Senate of Pakistan on PPP platform. They reside mainly in southern Punjab and Sindh. Her elevation to a top political slot is vivid evidence of the fact that minorities in Pakistan are living a much prestigious life as compared to the intolerant and coercive atmosphere of India. To honour the minorities, Sindh Assembly had passed Sindh Hindu Marriage Act of 2016. Later, the Parliament of Pakistan passed ‘The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017’ in 2017. The bill is aimed at helping Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage. In another related developments, Punjab Sikhs Anand Karaj Marriages Act 2018 was approved by the Punjab Assembly on 18 Mar 2018, thus, Pakistan became the first country to pass a law regulating marriages of the Sikh community. The act states that no male or female of the Sikh community below the age of 18 years can solemnize marriages under the law. It also upholds that all marriages between Sikh persons, whether solemnized before or after this law is passed, shall be registered with the relevant union council. It is pertinent to mention that in India, Sikh along-with Jains and Buddhists, are considered as part of Hinduism under article 25(2) (b) of the Indian Constitution.

In short, the plight of Indian minorities, especially, during BJP’s era has surpassed all previous records. There is a need to expose Modi’s fundamental policies dictated by RSS, to unleash atrocities on Indian minorities and still showcase India to be a secular state.

Read More: The True Face of” Incredible India”

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