75 years of India: Hindu state's dream of minorities is forbidden

Faheem Haider

Although the Hindu Pandits on the banks of the holy river Ganga were speaking softly, 75 years after the founding of India, their words carried a threatening message that their religion should be the axis of India's identity.

According to news agency Jairam Mishra said: "We must change with the times." Now we must cut off every hand raised against Hinduism.

India's 1.4 billion population is dominated by Hindus, but after gaining independence from Britain in 1947, the country introduced itself as a secular and multicultural state.

Now, however, right-wing ideologues are calling for India to be declared a Hindu state and Hindu supremacy enshrined in law, leaving the 21 crore Muslims here worried about their future.

Jairamshree said: 'Gandhi was a Hindu but wanted everyone to be equal in India irrespective of their religion. Thus the state is bound to be completely secular.

Less than a year after partition in 1947, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic who considered him too tolerant of Muslims. Jairam Mishra believes that Gandhi's ideas are now outdated.

He said: If someone slaps you on one cheek, Gandhi said that we should offer the other cheek also. Compared to other religions, Hinduism is generally peaceful. They even hesitate to kill mosquitoes but other communities are taking advantage of this mentality and until we change, they will continue to dominate us.

For many, this shift is already underway; a narrative that has been pushed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is marked by major projects related to Hinduism.

A grand temple is under construction in the holy Hindu city of Ajodhya, where Hindu extremists demolished a Mughal-era mosque three decades ago, sparking widespread sectarian violence and over a thousand across the country. More people died.

The BJP has backed a $300 million, 210-metre statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Hindu warrior king who challenged the Islamic Mughal Empire, on the Mumbai coast.

Indian authorities have demolished the homes of many people, mostly Muslims, on charges of various crimes. Human rights activists say this is an unconstitutional attempt to suppress minorities.

In the Indian state of Karnatak, the BJP supported a ban on female hijabs in schools, after which Muslims took to the streets to protest. Hindu groups have claimed ownership of many Muslim sites, which they say were built over temples during Islamic rule. It also includes a centuries-old mosque.

In 2002, a new wave of anti-Muslim riots erupted after Hindu pilgrims set fire to a train, and at least 1,000 people were stabbed or shot dead in Gujarat. Modi was the chief minister of the state at the time and is accused of failing to stop the killings.

A Muslim medical worker said: 'Emphasis on infrastructure, roads, riverside projects and sanitation are all good.' But he said he was really worried about the future of his children.

Feroze Hussain said that there is a lot of violence and killings in the name of religion. It’s wrong. No religion preaches violence. But King's College London professor Harsh V Pant said the rise of the BJP was due to Gandhi's own Congress party, which ruled the country for decades.

While preaching secularism, he helped extremist elements of both major religions for electoral purposes.

But after the demolition of the Ajodhya Masjid by Hindus in 1992, the BJP exploited Hindu sentiments and now occupies a central position in Indian politics. Everybody buys his narrative, reacts to it and nobody else seems to have any ideas. They will be here for the next two to three decades. The extremist Hindu organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad wants to make India a Hindu state.

The double face of secularism has become a curse and a threat to India's existence. They can live a peaceful life. India's character and morality will always be Hindu.

However, 52-year-old Nasir Jamal Khan, a custodian of a mosque in Varanasi, said that Muslims are concerned about this. He said: "We feel a growing sectarianism" even though "our forefathers were born here." He hopes that one day India's elected leaders will stop talking about religion. He told "I see the prime minister as a father figure in the family. It is not appropriate for a father to treat his children differently.