India a diverse nation of over 1.3 billion people, is witnessing a surge of communal violence and religious intolerance that threatens its social fabric and democratic values. In recent years several states across the country have reported clashes between Hindus and Muslims during religious festivals, resulting in injuries, arrests, and destruction of property.
The violence has been fuelled by provocative slogans, hate speech, and misinformation spread by right-wing groups, who espouse a Hindu-first vision of India that marginalizes minorities, especially Muslims.
The most alarming incident occurred in Manipur where Christian women was forced to move into the streets while they were forced to naked. The videos on social media make storms about India state of affairs.
The police, who have been accused of bias and inaction in previous cases of communal violence, responded by demolishing mostly Muslim-owned structures, claiming they were illegal encroachments. The demolition continued even after the Supreme Court ordered a halt, raising questions about the rule of law and accountability of the authorities.
Similar clashes have been reported in other states, such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, where Hindu groups have used religious occasions to assert their dominance and intimidate Muslims, who are observing the holy month of Ramadan.
The violence has been met with swift and one-sided punishments by the state governments, which are mostly ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP and its ideological affiliates, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have been accused of stoking communal tensions and polarizing the society along religious lines.
The communal violence in India is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more frequent and widespread in recent years, as the BJP has consolidated its power at the national and state levels. The BJP’s rise has been accompanied by a rise in hate crimes, lynching, and discrimination against Muslims, who make up about 14% of the population. The BJP has also pushed for controversial laws and policies, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), that critics say are aimed at disenfranchising and excluding Muslims from the nation.
The communal violence in India poses a serious challenge to the country’s secular and pluralistic ethos, as well as its economic and social development. The violence not only harms the lives and livelihoods of the victims, but also erodes the trust and harmony among different communities and undermines the institutions and norms of democracy.
The violence also tarnishes the image and reputation of India in the international arena and jeopardizes its relations with its neighbors and allies.
The need of the hour is for the government, the civil society, and the media to act responsibly and urgently to prevent further escalation of communal violence and restore peace and stability in the country.