By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
The landslide victory of the ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent elections in India’s largest and most populous state of Uttar Pradesh is set to bring more difficulties and problems for Muslims in the country. This was evident after the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of the state. He is a controversial figure who is infamous for his criminal record and hostility toward Muslims. His assumption of power as chief minister of UP is a clear threat to minorities in general and Muslims in particular.
There have been repeated attacks and violence against Muslims by mobs of Hindu fanatics with the clandestine support and blessing of the security forces in the country.
Recent attacks against Muslims in India have come at the hands of extremist Hindu mobs under the pretext of protecting cows. Last year, a mob of villagers attacked the home of a Muslim man called Mohammed Akhlaq in Bisara village near Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. The 52-year-old villager was lynched to death by the mob after rumors spread that Akhlaq had killed a calf and consumed its meat. An announcement to this effect was made through the microphone of the local temple, triggering a mob attack against Akhlaq and his son who sustained serious injuries. Investigations later found that these rumors were totally baseless and that what Akhlaq’s family had kept in their refrigerator was mutton and not beef.
Even though Akhlaq maintained very good neighborly relations with local Hindus and always used to eat mutton like many of his Hindu neighbors, the mob brutally attacked him. The entire family was dragged outside and Akhlaq and his son Danish were repeatedly kicked, hit with bricks and stabbed. The police were called but they arrived very late and by that time Akhlaq was dead and his son was badly injured.
Last month, Pehlu Khan, another Muslim, was killed by so-called “gau rakshaks” or cow protectors. A group of Muslims came under attack by hundreds of Hindu cow protection vigilantes when they were transporting cows from the western Indian state of Rajasthan to the state of Haryana, near the country’s capital of New Delhi. The Muslim men had bought the dairy cows from a cattle fair and were taking them to neighboring Haryana to raise them and to benefit from their milk and dairy products. The mob stopped their truck on a national highway in Alwar in Rajasthan and attacked them over suspicion of cow smuggling for slaughter. Pehlu Khan, who sustained serious injuries died at a hospital while six others were injured in the attack. The attackers paid no heed to the pleas made by the Muslims that they had obtained a permit from the competent authorities for transporting cows as the law does not allow the transfer of cattle from one state to another without permission. As in the case of Akhlaq, police did not come in time to protect the Muslims from the attack of the cow protectors.
Last week, a young Muslim was beaten to death for being in love with a young Hindu woman in the northern state of Jharkand. Villagers tied Mohammad Shakil to a tree and beat him for hours and later he succumbed to his injuries. There were conflicting reports about the attackers. Some reports say that they were relatives of the young woman while other reports indicated that they were Hindu zealots. At any rate, they took the law into their own hands with the blessing of the Hindu chauvinist government, which apparently sees no wrong in persecuting Muslims. Moreover, the government led by Hindu nationalist forces believes that it is also their religious duty, openly declaring that they are committed to regaining the past glory of Hindutva culture.
A crime that triggered outrage among Muslims around the world was the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque, built by Zahiruddin Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. Several centuries after its construction – perhaps at the instigation of the British colonial rulers – Hindus claimed that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple that stood at the birthplace of the Hindu Lord Rama. Several studies and archeological excavations, carried out by historians and archeologists, have found no evidence for this claim.
On 6 Dec. 1992, a large number of Hindu zealots, with the encouragement of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, demolished the mosque, and this tragic incident triggered widespread protest and riots between Hindus and Muslims in various parts of the country. A number of other mosques were destroyed and several other mosques are under the threat of destruction by Hindu chauvinist forces who falsely claim that they were built on the ruins of temples.
Muslims have gone to court to get justice with regard to the destruction of Babri Mosque and other places of worship. The court has prevented any construction on the site of Babri Mosque by either Hindus or Muslims until its issuance of the final verdict in the case. However, Hindu extremists have challenged this ruling and are making preparations to build a large temple on the site of the mosque where a makeshift temple was erected at the time of its demolition.
The latest development in the decades-old dispute was the suggestion made by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of India for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute. This suggestion has come at a time when Muslims have great hope that the final verdict of the court will be in their favor and will permit them to reconstruct the mosque on its original site.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org