The senior editor of the prominent Indian portal thewire.in Arfa Khanum Sherwani, tweeted today “ As per CPJAsia, there are 7 imprisoned journalists in India as of Dec 1, 2022 viz Aasif Sultan, Siddique Kappas, Gautam Navlakha, Maanan Dar, Sajad Gul, Fahad Shah and Rupesh Kumar Singh. 5 out of them are Muslims “.
There is no doubt there is discrimination and atrocities against Muslims in India, which have increased in recent years, and which I have strongly condemned.
However, Arfa and others who speak out on this issue, never care to go deeper, and consider why this is so. So let me present my view.
Although the Indian Constitution declares India to be a secular country, the ground reality is very different. After all, the Constitution is only a piece of paper. We may write anything in it e.g. that India is a rich and prosperous country, but that will not make it so. The ground reality is that India is a highly communal country, in which most Hindus are communal, and so are most Muslims. When a Muslim is lynched, or an atrocity is committed on a Muslim, most Hindus are indifferent, and some are even happy. Why is this so ? This needs to be explained.
Secularism is a feature of industrial, not feudal, society. This is because whereas in feudal, agricultural society people live in small scattered groupings mostly in rural areas, in industrial society human groupings are large, and are concentrated mainly in urban areas, in factories, offices, educational institutions, etc. When people of different religions, castes, and sects come together and are in close affinity in these urban establishments, they realize that those of other religions, castes, sects, etc are not devils, as they had been painted, but were fellow human beings with common problems of unemployment, low wages, lack of proper healthcare and housing, etc. This condition tends to unite them, whereas earlier they were divided. So industrial society has much less religious bigotry, which was a feature of feudal society.
Now India presently is still semi feudal, and not fully industrialized, like Western countries, and as long as this condition remains, communalism and casteism will be present in it. Even before 2014 when the BJP came to power there was communalism in Indian society, but it was to a certain degree curtailed by the Congress and other so called secular parties, not because they had any genuine affection or concern for Muslims, but with an eye on the large Muslim vote bank. Muslims by and large do not vote for the BJP, so it does not have to do any Muslim appeasement like annulling the progressive Shahbano verdict of the Supreme Court which granted maintenance to a divorced Muslim woman. In fact if the communal fire keeps burning, and Hindu-Muslim hatred is fostered, it benefits the BJP since 80% Indians are Hindus, whom the BJP claims to represent. Most of the sold out ‘godi’ Indian media, particularly, TV, promotes communal feelings, whether over mosques claimed to be originally Hindu temples ( some even claim Taj Mahal and Jama Masjid, Delhi were originally Hindu temples ), ‘love jihad’, etc.
The only way to end communalism and casteism ( on which Indian politics presently runs ) is to create a highly industrialised and highly modernized society in India, but that day is far off. To attain that objective will require a mighty historical united people’s struggle, led by modern minded leaders, but that is not presently seen anywhere on the horizon in India.