India has always been known for its multicultural fabric across the world. India is home to numerous distinct cultures, religions, castes and languages. But now, the scenario has changed. The multicultural fabric of India is slowly fading away. Especially in the last few years, there has been a hike in intolerance against religious minorities, lower castes and even people holding different opinions. From rising discrimination against Dalits, religious minorities such as Muslims, Sikhs and Christians to attacking physically or verbally on people with varying food habits or opinions, India is facing it all.
On February 16, 2015, Govind Pansare, a communist leader and an anti-superstitions activist was shot. A few days later, he succumbed to his injuries. The incident sparked protests, but nothing reversed. On September 5, 2017, the same story was recited again when Gauri Lankesh, a Bangalore-based journalist-cum-activist, was shot dead. She was an open detractor of the BJP government and also wrote an article called, Darodegilada BJP Galu, which criticised the BJP. People came out on roads to protest again. Many organisations, including the BJP, condemned the protests. These two cases show the height of intolerance in India against people with unparalleled views.
But this is not it. While the world is facing a new pandemic since early 2020, India has been facing an epidemic of mob lynchings since years. According to the Quint, there have been as many as 113 lynching cases between 2015 and 2018. These lynchings have specifically increased against those who consume beef.
According to a Reuters report, there have been as many as 63 cow vigilante attacks in India between 2010 and mid-2017. On September 28, 2015, Mohammad Akhlaq of Dadri was accused of consuming and slaughtering a calf. An announcement was also allegedly made in a local temple to gather the mob. The mob dragged Akhlaq and Danish (Akhlaq’s son) and hit them with bricks and a rod. While Danish managed to live with several injuries, Akhlaq died.
Lynchings against Muslims have not just impeded to the consumption of beef, Tabrez Ansari’s case proves so. Tabrez Ansari, on June 17, 2019, was ambushed by a mob in Jharkhand. He was tied to a tree and beaten up for “suspicion of theft”. Not only was he beaten brutally, but he was also compelled to chant “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) and “Jai Hanuman” (Hail Hanuman). On June 22, 2019, he died too.
A report by Indiaspend.com suggests that 84% of the people who have been killed in cow-related violence since 2010 are Muslims. Intolerance against religious minorities has become the new normal in India. In 2017, a Pew Research Centre Analysis ranked India amongst the worst countries for religious discrimination.
The country has also become more reckless towards lower castes including Dalits. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded 2,008 cases between 2016 and 2019 against minorities, including Dalits, being harassed. In 2016-17, the NHRC recorded 505 cases of harassment against Dalits. These cases rose to 672 in 2018-19. These alarming numbers and examples show the fact that India is becoming more and more intolerant with each passing day.
Last year, Dr Payal Tadvi died due to suicide because she was persecuted and harassed in her institute and the reason was her caste. On June 6, 2020, Vikas Kumar Jatav was shot by four upper-caste men because he visited a temple.
Apart from religious and caste-based intolerance, India has also been encountering bigotry against people holding contrasting views. Poets, activists and professors have been thrown in jail for speaking their minds out. Dr Kafeel Khan is a perfect example of the same. He was jailed. Why? Because he dared to speak against the ruling government regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act. His bail hearing was shelved and he was also smacked with NSA (National Security Act).
However, the Allahabad High Court termed his confinement under NSA against the doctor as “illegal”. Dr Kafeel Khan was jailed because of his speech on December 12, 2019, at Aligarh Muslim University. However, the court marked, “complete reading of the speech prima facie does not disclose any effort to promote hatred or violence.” Dr Khan’s family said that he was targeted because of his activism, and even though he was granted bail by CJM court in Aligarh, he was kept in jail. There are cases where prominent faces of the widespread anti-CAA-NRC protests have been thrown in prison.
Akhil Gogoi, a peasant leader, RTI and Anti CAA activist was booked under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), and sedition for alleged link with the Communist Party of India. He is also accused of inciting violence during the anti-CAA-NRC protests. He has been behind bars since December 2019.
Another case linked to the massive anti-CAA-NRC protests is Sharjeel Usmani’s arrest. Usmani is an ex-AMU student who was arrested on July 29, 2020, in relation to the anti-CAA-NRC protests held at AMU. His bail was approved after almost two months of his arrest. In his bail order, Judge Narendra Singh noted, “The academic records of the accused manifest that he has been a bright student. He has written many articles which are also available on records.”
The fire of intolerance is burning, and it’s burning so rapidly that it has also not spared the prisons. Sharjeel Usmani, in an interview with the Quint, asserted that he was called a terrorist from Shaheen Bagh. Shaheen Bagh became a notable site of protest in Delhi against the CAA-NRC movement. Many Sharjeels are still lying in prison for raising their voices. Even a Sikh who was distributing langar at the anti-CAA-NRC protests was not spared. The United Nations have also called to release the political prisoners awaiting trial under anti-terrorism laws (report by Aljazeera).
Intolerance in India is promptly increasing, and it must be deterred at any cost. India has always been a land of varied cultures, languages and religions; it has been a symbol of brotherhood. This is how India should be recognised, and not as an intolerant country.