By Syed Zafar Islam
May 13, 2019
People who try to pit Hindus against Muslims in India should be aware of the damage that they are doing by chipping away at the natural unity between the two communities. India has excellent relations with all Islamic nations ranging from the United Arab Emirates to Iran to Saudi Arabia.
Narendra Modi is not only popular in these countries, he is the recipient of prestigious civilian awards in three Islamic countries. Clearly, they don’t consider him anti-Muslim as portrayed in Time magazine. Our economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and the reforms begun by Modi are beginning to kick in.
I don’t deny that we have problems between the two communities. We do fight but we also make up. Yes, there is a divide between us but it’s not been exacerbated by Modi. He has, in fact, tried to remove fears about the majority community from Muslim minds, something which was assiduously promoted by the Congress and other so-called liberal parties.
We are a multi-faith, multi-lingual society. We have Left fundamentalists and religious bigots in our midst. They were not produced and nurtured by Modi. This is our collective problem, not Modi’s alone. Modi has undertaken the task of uniting a divided country but this is a work in progress.
Our prime minister is not a divider-in-chief. It is baffling how anyone can say that Hindu-Muslim relations are at an all-time low during Modi’s tenure. This is a serious allegation not backed by logic.
I am an Indian Muslim, born and raised in the midst of Hindus. I can say with authority that relations between the two communities are nowhere near as dire as is being made out. It is not good enough to focus on only small areas where religious violence has recurred over decades. Muslims have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in droves because of Modi. He has undertaken various measures to bring them into the mainstream. His government has launched several affirmative programmes for religious minorities.
I joined Modi’s revolution before the last general election. I come from a milieu which was nurtured on the apprehension that if Muslims didn’t vote for the Congress or self-styled secular parties, the Hindus would make them second-class citizens.
If Modi had been such a divider, Hindus and Muslims would not be living together as we do today. We still fight as siblings do. We still share hopes and we dream together as Indians. Indian Muslims have not been sent to Pakistan or thrown into the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea. We share our cultural heritage with the Hindus. Modi promotes this.
We are safer here than the Shias and Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan. We are better off here than Muslims are in many other countries. Not that there have been no problems, as I mentioned. EM Forster refers to this in his A Passage To India in the early 20th century. There are numerous other authors who have chronicled those tensions. Were Muslims not killed in riots in the pre-Partition days? Were Hindus not hacked to death by Muslims in those days?
There is no denying that there have been unfortunate incidents of lynchings carried out by anti-social elements in the guise of cow vigilantes. It’s also true that most of the victims were Muslims and lower caste people. Modi has more than once cautioned those involved in cow-related lynchings saying they were not the true followers of the dharma. He warned people to not fall prey to such monsters and their claims about protecting cows.
Unlike in the past, when Muslims were used only as vote banks, the Modi government has seen to it that all the government-sponsored schemes, such as Ujjwala reached the poorest and most disadvantaged in the Muslim community. Around 22% beneficiaries of several such schemes are Muslims.
These sweeping generalisations about divisions between the two communities are based on ignorance. And it beyond comprehension to say that there is a conspiracy of silence on the part of the prime minister and his government when it comes to justice for Muslims.