Nupur Sharma Row: Is India’s response to the unbridled hate for Hindus adequate? – Arti Agarwal

Kanpur Muslims rioting (June 2022).

Arti AgarwalIs India’s response to the unbridled hate for Hindus adequate, given the response of the Islamic countries? … The lopsided view of denouncing comments against the Prophet, without denouncing threats to the lives of Indian citizens by Islamist terrorist organisations, reeks of stratagem. – Arti Agarwal

In the last one week, India has been thrown into a furore over the remarks of ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal on Prophet Mohammad, spoken in defense of Hindu Gods in a TV news debate. It rarely happens that remarks in a news debate, which are by nature meant to bring different perspectives on controversial issues, is a cause of so much grievance to so many people in such a short span of time.

The remarks of Sharma and Jindal have drawn the ire of at least 16 Islamic countries, including non-Arab countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Maldives. This is an unprecedented response to the statements of two individuals on an Indian TV channel. The natural question to ask would be, do these countries always issue condemnation over comments of prominent figures on Islam? No. Incidents very much like the Charlie Hebdo shooting in France have been on the rise in India in the last few years, where the freedom of speech of common citizens has been threatened by murdering leaders like Kamlesh Tiwari. Whereas Islamic countries came together to denounce the Charlie Hebdo shooting, they did not denounce the brutal murders of Kashmiri Pandits (in 2022), nor the murders of other leaders like Kamlesh Tiwari, nor the terror attack on Sankat Mochan Temple in 2006. It is then worth pondering over what makes Islamic countries rally together to condemn the statements of two people over something that many Muslim clerics (like Zakir Nayak) themselves preach.

Islamist outfits like Al Qaeda, which were behind the Charlie Hebdo shooting, have further threatened India, and brazenly sought to create an atmosphere of fear amongst Indians. No western country has stepped forward to condemn the statements of Al Qaeda either.

International media outlets have for long painted India as an Islamophobic country and continue to do so. The US Congress recently passed a bill that enables the USA to interfere in internal matters of Asian countries, including India, on issues concerning Islamophobia (it is yet to be passed in the US Senate). It is almost as if the stars have been aligning for all of these groups—international media, Islamic countries, terrorist groups, US politicians and Hinduphobic celebrities such as Naseeruddin Shah—to come together in one concerted effort to (mis)label India as Islamophobic for once and for all.

What could be the reason behind such a disproportionate and unnecessary response by multiple agencies against India, and the lack of any support for citizens like Nupur Sharma?

The first possibility is the urgent need to deflect attention from the Gyanvapi Complex issue, which is now pending in courts. By creating a ruckus on the international stage, Hinduphobic groups and Muslim clerics want to ensure that should the court’s judgment be in favour of Hindus, that the stone structure is in fact the centuries’ old Shiva Linga, the Muslim community could want to create a law and order situation in the city, as they already have done it in the past. In this scenario, they will plead Islamophobia for any action taken against them. The Uttar Pradesh police and the state machinery, which takes actions against rioters, is already being labelled as “Muslim hating” in Kanpur. None of this is far-fetched or unusual. Muslim groups have in the past created a law and order situation in Varanasi to prevent the survey at the Gyanvapi complex. It will not be surprising if they try it again.

The second possibility is this is a concerted effort to diminish India’s position in the global ranks, which India has been steadily climbing in the past decade. Economic growth of India and trade agreements with countries across the world have bolstered India’s position in the world. There is every reason for western countries as well as smaller nations in the Middle East to want a weakened India which can bow to their demands. Since this is not possible through the economic route, there are efforts to destabilise India by causing internal conflict and fanning discontent amongst Indians.

The question remains—is India’s response to this unbridled hate for Hindus adequate, given the response of the Islamic countries? The MEA has issued a statement denouncing the comments by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). But OIC is not the only one censuring India. The lopsided view of denouncing comments against the Prophet, without denouncing threats to the lives of Indian citizens by Islamist terrorist organisations, reeks of stratagem, which India has not addressed. One billion Hindus of India cannot be ignored to mend relations with a few Islamic countries. All the economic progress made by India must add up to hegemony, which gives the MEA enough agency to speak up for the rights of one billion Hindus as well. The big picture cannot ride roughshod over the “small” picture of the sentiments of Hindu citizens of India. There was nothing stopping the foreign minister from stating something like “India looks forward to respect of Hindu sentiments in the Islamic countries of the world, just as India has always upheld religious freedom of Muslims in India.” This cannot be put down to an oversight. This is a deliberate silence on the ridicule faced by Hindus, and the threats they live in, with their freedom of speech strangled by the havoc unleashed by Islamist groups, with the backing of Islamic countries.

Hindumisia is rising unchecked, within and outside India. As a Hindu majority country, the responsibility of addressing this Hindumisia—the hatred against their biggest voter group—rests with the BJP government. This hatred has not only not been addressed, it has been ignored. India is now a country where disrespect of the Prophet threatens to sever India’s economic ties with countries around the world, but ridicule of Shiva is the order of the day. – News 18, 12 June 2022

Arti Agarwal is an author and researcher on understanding secularism in India.

Nupur Sharma

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