When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was voted into power in 2014, there were many who had reservations about the extreme right-wing credentials of his party and its allies. Here we are, a year later, and under the same leadership, the world has been witness to some very intolerant acts on the part of the BJP and its allies. On October 8, BJP lawmakers tried to assault a Muslim parliamentarian in Indian-occupied Kashmir for having served beef at a party, ostensibly to protest the Indian government’s efforts to ban beef. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of Pakistani ghazal artist Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai, after protests and threats from the Shiv Sena, a party closely associated with the ruling BJP. The reason for the cancellation does not go beyond the legendary singer’s nationality. This is not the first time a Pakistani artist has had to face such difficulties, with an Atif Aslam concert also being forcibly cancelled earlier this year after similar threats from the same outfit. In addition, just last month, a Muslim man was beaten to death in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he had slaughtered and consumed a beef product, with reports later indicating that the slaughtered animal was, in fact, a goat.
While the Indian prime minister has called for calm and religious harmony, he seems to have done little in practice to keep a check on the antics of his own parliamentarians and party workers, as well as his allies. It took him a week to break his silence on the lynching episode, while his ministers continued to make statements that seemed to defend the murder. India should remember that extremism and religious fundamentalism will only succeed in preventing it from achieving its goal of becoming a global economic power. It perhaps needs to look no further than just across the border to see how regressive ideologies and bigotry can destroy the social fabric of a society and once that happens, a long, difficult road needs to be traversed to get out of the morass.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2015.
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