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The Muslims in India have been on edge ever since the announcement of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by the Centre that seeks to grant citizenship to religiously persecuted Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Sikhs from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
This, coupled with the declaration of an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) has further instilled an unshakeable fear in the Muslim community. And now, the Hindutva peddlers are going all out to demonise the community, calling for their economic boycott.
While Gujarat has been a hotbed of tensions, the venom of communal hatred is now also being spread to neighbouring Saurashtra and Kutch which have been relatively peaceful on communal issues in the past, reports The Citizen.
Systemic hate model
The Hindutva forces have intensified their attack against the Muslims who are vehemently opposing the CAA all over India. After evident scare tactics in Delhi, by self-proclaimed Hindutva followers opening fire on peaceful protestors, the ‘Gujarat Model’ where the minorities have been systematically pushed to the margins, is now being implemented shamelessly through social media with people circulating hate messages and openly calling for the shutting down of businesses run by Muslims.
The anti-government sentiment has surged in this manner for the first time post the Emergency and the ruling regime has pulled out all stops to ensure that its agenda is met, no matter what. The protests have seen Muslims at the forefront and post the Bharat Bandh called on January 29, there have been at least four incidents of Muslims being targeted in Kutch and Surat.
“The calls for boycott saw their peak last week during the Bandh against CAA, NRC and NPR. The response to the call was unprecedented across South Gujarat as even those selling vegetables and eatables on small carts kept off the roads. The Hindutva elements then resorted to composing multiple hate messages and circulating them on the social media,” Surat sources told The Citizen.
The messages, sources said, contained lists of prominent shops owned by Muslims, with an appeal to boycott them and ensured that they remained closed forever.
The hate propaganda against the Muslims has been spreading in Kutch for quite some time now. In the villages of Ratnaal and Navanagar which have no Muslim households, there have been calls to refuse entry to Muslims in the village and label any Muslim in the area as ‘anti-national’.
“Last year the Hindutva groups organized trident distribution programmes in the villages. We had approached the Governor of the state with an appeal to check this but the exercise continued. Apart from this there is a sudden upswing in organizing of Ram Kathas and other religious programmes at hyper local level in rural Kutch where the religious discourse is subtly laced with hate propaganda. This has been happening in the villages of far remote Abdasa and Nakhatrana talukas as well as other parts of the district like Anjar along with various other parts of North Gujarat. The sudden up scaling of such programmes can also be attributed to the local body polls approaching in Kutch district besides it being a part of a larger game plan,” senior Minority Co-ordination Committee (Gujarat) functionary Mujahid Nafees told the publication.
The Ahmedabad Mirror reports that Hindutva organizations like the Akhil Bharatiya Desh Rakshak Sangh have put up banners with the words “Jai Shri Ram! Those not supporting the country must not park or stop their vehicles in the village”.
Another banner reads, “Before making purchases from these shops, please think about the plight of Hindu women being persecuted in Pakistan.”
And another one, “Before you purchase flowers from these shops, think about the 12-13 year old Hindu flowers (daughters) being crushed in Pakistan.”
A Muslim vegetable vendor, Hasan Memon was threatened in Navanagar, which has a population of around 1,500 to 2,000 residents of Hindu families who settled here from Pakistan after the 1971 war. A video of the incident has been doing the rounds which shows two youths warning him from entering the village.
Another Muslim man was warned of extending support to the protestors at Shaheen Bagh and was labelled an anti-national.
BJP leader forwards divisive WhatsApp messages – Intention or unwitting mistake?
Bharat Sanghvi, a local BJP leader from Kutch, forwarded pictures of the hotels and shops who had observed the bandh against the contentious CAA and NRC, with a message that read: “Hotels are closed in support of bandh. We stop eating there to show our support for CAA.”
When questioned, he defended himself saying that he had unwittingly forwarded those messages and that once he analysed them, he deleted them. He said, “I do not believe in the boycott of Muslims. I have opened up at least 800 accounts of Muslim labourers at post offices.”
Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani has spoken about the incident saying, “This is the RSS and BJP design to keep dividing the nation on communal lines. Comments made by the BJP leader amount to criminal offence under IPC 153(A). Since we are a secular country, such statements and acts are prohibited under various laws including the IPC. Such people must be arrested. BJP, as a party, must expel such people, if at all they believe in the idea of India.”
Congress politician, Manisben Sanghvi, whom a voice note is being attributed to, is taking to task a BJP leader from the same Jain community that she belongs to, for circulating hate messages calling for the economic boycott of Muslims.
In it she can be heard saying, “Please do not resort to such politics. We have played and grown up with these people. We belong to a community that does not even allow killing the tiniest of insects. These people (Muslims) are buried in the land of this country. That is the level to which they are attached to this country.” The man can be heard sheepishly agreeing to whatever she is saying. She is heard firmly conveying that dissent is a democratic right of the people. The man can be heard agreeing and saying, “They are our brothers.”
Shamshad Pathan, a lawyer and member of the Alpsankhyak Adhikar Manch is trying to stop the hate in its tracks through conducting Mohalla meetings on the CAA, NRC and National Population Register (NPR) making people aware of the importance of uniting against the government that was trying to take everyone for a ride. He told The Citizen, “Being a lawyer I can tell you that it would not be easy for any of the Hindus left out in NRC or NPR to get citizenship under CAA as is being said by the government. Submitting details on how they came to India, which route they took, how and where they were persecuted, filing affidavits would be a very tedious exercise. And just one false information would make them liable for facing a criminal case.”
Ibrahim Halepotra, President of the Akhil Kutch Sunni Muslim Hitrakshak Samiti has also reported incidents to the Kutch Range IG Subhash Trivedi who has promised to take cognizance of the matter.
Lawyer and activist Anand Yagnik told the Ahmedabad Mirror that those under oath must not make statements that result in religious intimidation, further saying that party cadres must behave in accordance with the Constitution. He said, “No person can be discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, caste and sex.”
However, it seems like Yagnik’s words that reflect the values of the Constitution are lost on Hindutva sympathisers. Muslims in India have been physically, mentally and emotionally tested time and again and asked to prove their loyalty to the country that is India.
Now, they are being economically outcast – another weapon to drive them away from their own land. Yet, the move is not surprising, given that the ruling regime will not relent from its divisionary agenda to pigeonhole the Muslims at the fringes.