Muslims fear rising tide of Hindu nationalism in Modi's India

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Date: Aug. 17, 2015
Publisher: The Washington Post
Document Type: Article
Length: 601 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

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Byline: Rama Lakshmi

Since India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year, the country's Muslims have expressed growing concerns about a spate of inflammatory statements made by Hindu nationalist leaders and activists.

[Read: Why a rising star of Muslim politics in India stirs hope and fear]

Some of the recent flash points:

The hanging of Yakub Memon

Last month, India hanged Yakub Memon, a Muslim accountant convicted of helping plan bombings in 1993 in Mumbai that killed 257 people. Many critics, including the Muslim lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, opposed the execution saying that there were other non-Muslim convicts waiting in the death row that were given clemency. More than 15,000 Muslims joined Memon's funeral procession in Mumbai.

A call to increase birth rates to 'protect Hindu religion'

Sakshi Maharaj, a lawmaker from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that Hindu women must have at least four children each to keep up with the growth in the population of Muslims in India. "The concept of four wives and 40 children will not work in India and the time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion," Maharaj said. Muslim account for about 14 percent of India's more than 1.2 billion people.

The beef ban in Maharashtra

The BJP government in the western state of Maharashtra banned the sale of beef because the cow is worshipped as a holy animal by many Hindus. Muslims dominate the meat industry in many parts of the country. "This is a political decision," said Mohammed Aqil Qureshi, president of the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association in New Delhi. "They want to gratify the Hindus and harass the Muslims." There have been calls for a national beef ban as well.

The drive to convert Muslims, Christians to Hinduism

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (or the World Hindu Council, which is associated Modi's party) launched a program called "Gharwapsi" (or Homecoming) to urge India's Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism, which they said was the religion of their ancestors. The controversial debate began in December 2014 when more than 50 impoverished Muslim families in a slum in the northern city of Agra attended a simple ceremony at which they were asked by a Hindu priest to chant and throw offerings into the holy fire in front of some Hindu idols.

Celebrating Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi

In December 2014, Maharaj again fueled anger when he called the assassin of India's revered freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi a "patriot." Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse, a firebrand Hindu activist who accused Gandhi of being very tolerant of Muslims and of "appeasing" them. Godse is widely known for his extreme anti-Muslim views. Maharaj later retracted the statement.

Declaring a Hindu national scripture

At an event in New Delhi last year, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Hindu scripture Bhagwad Gita must be declared a "national scripture." Another BJP politician, Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of the northern Haryana state said Bhagwad Gita is considered more important than India's secular Constitution.

Love jihad

Members of the World Hindu Council launched a campaign last year urging Hindu families to be on guard against what they called "love jihad" -- romantic relationships between young Hindus and Muslims. They accused Muslim men of coercing Hindu women into love in order to convert them to Islam.

Read more: Why a rising star of Muslim politics in India stirs hope and fear

How India's divisive politics are roiling a top film school

The growing diplomatic importance of Hindi to Narendra Modi's India

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A425792127