In this instalment, we look at 5 August, 2020, the day that the Bharatiya Janata Party fulfilled a large part of its Hindu majoritarian agenda, delivering a decisive blow to India’s founding principles of secularism and pluralism. In the end, everyone from the media and the judiciary to the public and the Opposition either stepped aside or helped the BJP and its allies realise their vision of projecting India as first and foremost a Hindu nation.
For five decades before the BJP, the Congress Party let the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya fester. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi used it to appease the Hindus in the eighties, in effect opening a chapter of the political Hindutva-isation of India. The BJP fleshed out that chapter in the two subsequent decades, and today Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended it while laying the foundation stone for the Ram Temple on the site of the demolished 16 century Babri Masjid.
5 August also marks the day when the Modi government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s semi autonomous status, and demoted India’s Muslim majority state to a Union Territory in order to make it possible for all Indians to settle in the region, and redraw parliamentary and assembly constituencies that could tilt the balance of power towards the Hindu-dominant part of the erstwhile state.
Kashmiris live in fear of a demographic change and cultural aggression in the decades to come. Doordarshan, India’s state broadcaster, live streamed the inauguration of the Ram Temple, even though the destruction of the Babri Masjid is still painfully seared in the minds of many Indians. The BJP politicians who instigated the religious violence that eventually claimed the lives of 2,000 people have been free since 1992.
“In the end, everyone from the media and the judiciary to the public and the Opposition either stepped aside or helped the BJP....”
In this interview, Dr Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad talked about the legality and propriety of Prime Minister Modi inaugurating the Ram Temple, given that he is the head of government in a country that calls itself secular, and what secularism means in a country where the state often manages places of worship, religious institutions, and pays the salaries of those who run them.
“The important question is should a secular state tilt in favour of one religion. The answer is no. In the last few years, do we get that impression? The answer is yes,” he said.
“The important question is should a secular state tilt in favour of one religion.”
In this interview, Supreme Court advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who fought for the Sunni Waqf Board and other Muslim parties in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit, said that judgments going back to sixties have given a nod to the idea that India was innately Hindu and that is now fructifying into an affirmation of “muscular nationalism.”
“I want the Supreme Court to uphold its jurisprudence of freedoms, rights and justice, which it has not been able to do in the last two years. I want it to be an arena where people can speak without fear or favour. That is the present struggle we have to sustain in the Supreme Court,” he said.
“I want the Supreme Court to uphold its jurisprudence of freedoms, rights and justice...”
In November 2019, after the Supreme Court delivered its Ayodhya verdict in favour of the Hindu parties, author Rana Ayyub said that Indians Muslims could not even express how unhappy they were at the decision.
“This silence is of fear, not happiness. It’s only when you are intimidated that you are silent. We have been asked to shut up. Muslims are numb right now. The community has gone into a cocoon,” she said.
“Muslims are numb right now. The community has gone into a cocoon.”
In August 2019, hours after PM Modi demoted J&K to a Union Territory, HuffPost India’s Aman Sethi wrote that the decision to eliminate the state of Jammu & Kashmir by legislative decree was made in absolute secrecy, and will be executed in absolute darkness.
“As Delhi lays out Kashmir’s abbreviated future, the Kashmiris have been silenced, and in this silence we see the demise of Indian democracy,” he wrote.
“As Delhi lays out Kashmir’s abbreviated future, the Kashmiris have been silenced...”
In August 2020, political activist Shehla Rashid said that Kashmiris feel Kashmir is slipping away as the Modi government unleashes one change after another in the region.
“I do not have to be afraid being a Muslim in Kashmir. That is not the case in the rest of India. I’m not a minority in Kashmir, my culture is not frowned upon, and I do not have to think twice about saying Inshallah or Alhamduillah. We are not second class citizens here,” she said.
“There is already a sense of nostalgia...”
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Diego Orlandini, a Peruvian-American writer and social entrepreneur, writes that he was moved by our instalment on the Delhi heroes who showed fortitude, courage and kindness in the face of the communal violence that ravaged the national capital in February.
“I love the fact that India retains a lot of it’s diverse and deep culture, and honestly, I am puzzled by the fascism and radicalization that has sprouted again, but it mirrors what’s happening around the world too,” writes Orlandini. “However, I trust in the jugaad of the people. I believe acceptance and common sense will prevail, but the heroes of India cannot rest yet. They need to keep making a stand.”
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