Delhi Police deployed heavy security after stone-pelting incidents in the Jahangirpuri area of New Delhi
Delhi Police deployed heavy security after stone-pelting incidents in the Jahangirpuri area of New Delhi Image Credit: ANI/Twitter

India is in the midst of a hate wave. A series of communal rows - from hijab to halal meat, from the azaan to navratri - has gripped the nation for the last few weeks. The illegal and shameful bulldozing of homes belonging to minorities in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district marks a new low.

The Madhya Pradesh authorities are demolishing these properties after accusing the owners of pelting stones on a Ram Navami procession. This action has absolutely no sanction under Indian laws. Due process, courts, have been bypassed.

When I confronted the state home minister about this on NDTV last week, he brazenly refused to answer under which law this was being done and justified the move without batting an eyelid. 

We may not like the US lecturing us on human rights - as Secretary of State Antony Blinken did last week. But frankly we don’t need the US to tell us there is something terribly wrong.

Fear of reprisals

One of India’s best known entrepreneurs, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, pointed this out in a tweet recently. As right wing groups called for a ban on Muslim businesses in parts of Karnataka, she said this communal divide would hurt India and its leadership in the tech sector, urging the chief minister of Karnataka to step in.

It was a rare public comment by an Indian business leader on such an issue. Most Indian corporate leaders lost their voices a long time ago for fear of reprisals.

Within hours, Kiran Shaw was attacked by a troll army on social media for speaking up. She was accused of having a “political” opinion. Concerned citizens in India can’t even voice their disagreement with what is happening without being labelled as agents of the opposition or even anti national.

India’s diversity has always been at the heart of its strength. I grew up in an India where we recited the prayers of all religions in our school assembly, where we shared our joys on Shivratri with all and shared in the celebrations on Eid.

That’s not to say the country doesn’t have communal fault lines, it has always had these. But India rose above those and stayed united. Today, there is a clear attempt to rip people apart on religious lines.

Ram Navami celebrations turned violent in as many as 7 states last week. In some neighbourhoods, the processions were led by men chanting abuses about other faiths. But none of them represent the vast majority of Hindus who have lived peacefully with other religions and even celebrated alongside them.

Hate mongers on the prowl

There are open calls for the creation of a Hindu rashtra and violence against Muslims by so-called priests and Hindutva leaders like Yati Narsinghanand, who was even placed under arrest and then given bail on the condition he wouldn’t make any speeches to divide communities. Except he openly called for violence again and is yet to be arrested.

Students in India’s leading university - JNU - were beaten up for eating non-vegetarian food. Municipal officials in Delhi tried to impose a meat ban during the Navratri festival, which outraged Hindus and Muslims alike.

No one wants the state to tell people what to eat. And, never mind that the government’s own surveys show that more than 70 percent of India consumes non-veg food.

We may like to pretend we do not care what the world thinks of all this but we do. We can’t make Mahatma Gandhi our brand ambassador internationally but regard his assassin at home. The hypocrisy is there for the world to see.

We can’t tell the world our diversity is our pride but marginalise Muslims at home. Communal strife hurts our image, it hurts the prospect for businesses and investors but most of all it is hurting is us as a society.

It is time for all Indians to speak up and push back against the atmosphere of hate.