By Ahmad Khan
“All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others,” the British writer, born in the present-day Bihar, George Orwell wrote it about 75 years ago in his revolutionary book Animal Farm.
If Orwell were witnessing the ongoing political developments in India, watching prime-time debates, and scrolling Twitter, he would have rewritten his celebrated sentence. It is because India has an Orwellian problem.
Indian Muslims that make 14.2% percent of India’s population are easiest to scapegoat. It is also easiest to blame the entire community based on the actions of a few people with an Arabic name. There are times when even those “few” are not required. Right from the death of an elephant to a global pandemic, anything can be used to dehumanise Muslims. The IT cell of the ruling government and the right-leaning media channels do it together.
Most recently, the death of an elephant in Kerela was communalised as several national media channels ran the fake news that claimed that the elephant was deliberately killed in Malappuram—a Muslim dominated district. It turned out that the elephant inadvertently ate a fruit upholstered with active firecrackers and that too in Palakkad district. Fruits filled with firecrackers have been used by farmers to safeguard their crops from wild boards for years.
Earlier in March, Indian Muslims were associated with words like “Corona Bomb” and “Corona Jihad” as several national media channels scapegoated the members of an Islamic missionary group Tablighi Jamaat for the spread of COVID-19 in India—which has now affected more than 15 million people worldwide. It was so bad that Uttar Pradesh police had to step in to debunk misinformation as a plethora of unrelated videos made rounds on the Internet—making claims like members of Tablighi Jamaat are spitting on policemen, roaming naked inside an isolation ward, and sneezing in unison. This Islamophobic discourse pushed by the media in collaboration with IT-cell has created a suffocating space where Muslims are always trying to defend themselves against things they never did and the rest is either blaming or scapegoating. It has also overshadowed a more serious and much catastrophic problem: radicalisation of the Indian Hindus that make 79.8% of India’s population. It seldom finds space in contemporary discours.
Cow-terror attacks by radical people from Indian Hindus have been on the rise for the past 10 years. In 2017, IndiaSpend published a report that declared 2017 to be the worst year for cow-related violence. “In the first six months of 2017, 18 cow-terror attacks were reported–75% of the 2016 figure, which was the worst year for such violence since 2010,” the report revealed, “The attacks include mob lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder and attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape.”
It is noteworthy that the incident of mob violence multiplied after the ruling party came into power. “As many of 97% of these attacks were reported after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014, and half the cow-related violence–30 of 60 cases–were from states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when the attacks were reported,” the report further noted.
However, mob lynching isn’t the only indicator of radicalisation in the Indian Hindus. Another indicator is more alarming because it is also historical: pogroms.
The pogroms that India witnessed in the past 70 years must also be scrutinized. Right from Moradabad violence in 1980, Nellie massacre in 1983, Sikh massacre in 1984, Hashimpura massacre in 1987, Bombay violence in 1992, Gujrat Massacre in 2002, Muzaffarnagar violence in 2013 to Delhi pogrom in 2020, radical people from Indian Hindus perpetrated unimaginable violence on minorities—largely Muslims, Dalits, and Sikhs. The narrative is built in such a way that these blood-soaked episodes where human rights went for a toss are often covered up or subsumed. The media carefully uses blanket terms. For instance, a pogrom is always called a riot. For extremist Hindus flagging Bhagva flags on minarets of mosques during Delhi pogrom to them demolishing Babri Masjid, the media used the word “mob” which gives the impression that a group of mindless people angry about something did it. It overlooks the shared Islamophobia and the need to accept that radicalisation in the Indian Hindus is indeed a problem. Highlighting the similar problem in the caste-basted violence in India and the fact that is it is barely discussed on international forums, Arundhati Roy writes in her book, The Doctor and the Saint, “Perhaps because it has come to be so fused with Hinduism, and by extension with so much that is seen to be kind and good-mysticism, spiritualism, non-violence, tolerance, vegetarianism, Gandhi, yoga, backpackers, the Beatles-that, at least to outsiders, it seems impossible to pry it loose and try to understand it.”
It shifts the onus on the discourse present in civil societies, debates happening at tea stalls, and opinion sections of outlets based on the free press. The first step to solve a problem is to acknowledge that it exists. As the problem of radicalisation in the Indian Hindus is not being acknowledged, it will be tougher to solve it. Don’t take me wrong. I am not saying all the Indian Hindus are to be blamed for it. I am asking why is it not considered a problem, to begin with? Why is it invisible in the general discourse? Why is it that minorities are always apologising even though it is the radicalisation in the Indian Hindus—that are more in numbers and have caused bigger damage—that should be prioritised?
I think if George Orwell would have rewritten his celebrated sentence, he would have written it like this: all radicals are equal but some are more radical than others.