Article: Saffronization: A threat to regional peace and stability

Saima Afzal

India declares itself a democratic and secular state that claims to promote religious harmony within it. However, the reality is opposite, and the Indian constitution has failed to transform the Indian society into a secular state because of the biased and bigoted attitude of the BJP-led Modi government’s Hindutva ideology.

Hindutva is a modern political ideology that supports Hindu supremacy and wants to transform constitutionally a secular state of India into an ethno-religious nation recognized as the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). Whether it is Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Budhists and Dalits, all the minorities are victimized under the BJP’s biased policies. It seemed that India has become an apartheid state where human rights and equality have become a distant idea.

Karnataka is a state in the south-west of India, and has been in the news due to the BJP-led Hindutva ideology and discriminatory attitude towards Muslims and Christians. Minorities have borne the brunt of Hindutva policies throughout India under the current BJP/RSS neo-Nazi government. Even the liberal Hindus who disagree with Hindutva policies have to face the consequence of being opposed. The tussle over hijab and saffron scarves continues to spread to more colleges in Karnataka and the issue has entered the national discourse; and is likely to gain momentum in coming days.

The Hijab ban is another blow to the Indian secular outlook that India is losing rapidly. Hijab ban has once again highlighted Modi’s hatred towards the Muslim minority. In the past, during 2002, Modi was the mastermind of Gujarat massacres to eliminate the resistance of Muslims. Ethnic democracy and an authoritarian approach is defining the future contours of Indian policy with intolerance and discrimination as its key pillars.

Forcing Muslim women to give up their hijab is a clear violation of Article 25 of Indian Constitution that guarantees religious freedom and forbidding them from entering classrooms infringes upon Articlthe e 21(A) & Article 15 that give assurance of right to education and prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth respectively. On the 15 March 2022, a three-judge bench of Karnataka High Court has upheld the state government’s ban on Hijab in schools and colleges on the grounds that wearing it was not essential in Islam. The discriminatory verdict makes a mockery of India’s so-called liberal and secular credentials under Modi’s Hindutva-inspired regime that protects and pleased the Hindu majority.

From Kashmir to mainland India, minorities’ rights are being abused under the patronage of the Indian state. The Indian constitution has a secular outlook which has a conflation of state and religion. Today’s India is anything but not a secular state. India acts irrationally on the global stage and uses disinformation to hide its heinous crimes. The western powers, often claiming to be champions of human rights, have failed to hold India accountable for its bad human rights records because of their vested interests. Human rights organizations should come forward and stop India from human rights violations that is potent threat to peace and stability of South Asia.

Therefore, India not only violated its constitutional article on religious freedom but also being a signatory to several international conventions, violates Article 18 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) that stresses on freedom of thought and conscience and religion.

In continuation to the anti-minorities policies of BJP/RSS, the administration has now called for the boycott of Muslim fruit vendors on 4 April 2022. Hindu janajagruti has called for Hindus to set up more fruits shops to break the monopoly of Muslim traders in the fruits business. Muslim population is 7.8 million in Karnataka that constitutes a small number among the Hindu domination.

The propaganda that Muslims have economically dominated the Hindus by depriving them of their due share thus is baseless and illogical. Before this Muslims were facing ban on halal meat and use of loudspeakers during prayer time. It highlights that Hindus cannot bear Muslims being a progressive community and want to suppress them in all aspects, so they could be forced to live under the poverty line.

Despite increasing international criticism, Human Rights abuses (HRAs) against the minorities in India is the new normal, and not a single day goes by when Indian minorities do not face a new demand to sacrifice their basic human rights to fulfill the aspirations of neo-Nazi Hindutva groups. The recent inhuman acts of HRAs in the Indian state of Karnataka has once again unmasked the so-called secular face of India. International human rights organizations and groups have time and again raised alarm at the deteriorating situation of human rights in India especially with regards to the ever growing element of state sponsored activities of Hindutva groups.

However, rising Hindutva terror is becoming a potent threat to the regional peace and security of South Asia. RSS influence can now be seen in national policies affecting everything from education to commerce. Through its affiliates, it has been able to scuttle legislation it does not like. The Indian Armed Forces, institutions and education system are being saffronized at a rapid pace within the framework of Maha Bharat. Growing saffronization have made India an unsafe country for the world to invest, visit and engage on the basis of democratic values. The Saffronization drive has undermined Indian democracy, pluralistic values and has introduced autocracy and majoritarianism. India is embarked on self-destructive path and it’s saffronizing policies are widening the communal, ethnic and linguistic divide. Polarized Indian society will be a serious challenge to global peace and harmony.

In a nutshell, India is considered the biggest violator of human rights. From Kashmir to mainland India, minorities’ rights are being abused under the patronage of the Indian state. The Indian constitution has a secular outlook which has a conflation of state and religion. Today’s India is anything but not a secular state. India acts irrationally on the global stage and uses disinformation to hide its heinous crimes. The western powers, often claiming to be champions of human rights, have failed to hold India accountable for its bad human rights records because of their vested interests. Human rights organizations should come forward and stop India from human rights violations that is potent threat to peace and stability of South Asia.

—The writer is an Islamabad-based analyst

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