BJP's Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Has Deep, Dark Historical Roots

(MENAFN- Asia Times) The world's largest election is currently underway in India, with more than 960 million people registered to vote over a period of six weeks.

Spearheading the campaign for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is spending that time crisscrossing the country, delivering a message he hopes will result in a landslide victory for the Hindu nationalist party.

He is a popular figure but also a divisive one. Modi's speeches are drawing heat for their anti-Muslim rhetoric . At a campaign rally on April 21, 2024, he referred to Muslims as“infiltrators .”

He later doubled down on those remarks, suggesting that if India's largest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, came to power, the wealth of Hindus would be snatched and given to communities that“have too many children ,” a seemingly lightly veiled reference to Indian Muslims.

Such language represents a fear that Modi and the BJP have stoked many times before: that Muslims will become a numerical threat to India's Hindu-majority population .

Modi has since claimed that he did not explicitly target Muslims in his speech , but his words – widely recorded and disseminated – have certainly been taken that way.

To some onlookers, the rhetoric is an indication that not all is well in the BJP campaign as it seeks to secure a two-thirds supermajority in Parliament. By appealing to the party's Hindu base, the argument goes, Modi is trying to counter voter apathy in the face of high youth unemployment and rising economic inequality .

As a historian of public health in India , I believe it is important to shed light on the specific origins of anti-Muslim rhetoric and how it fits longstanding fears of Muslim population growth and the erosion of the Hindu majority in India.

Fears of a Muslim takeover

Demographic fears in India are tied to political and administrative representation and have been since the days of British colonialism.

In 1919, the British granted Indians a limited franchise ; Indian legislators were allowed to create policy in certain fields, such as health care and education, but not on law and order.

After the 1931 census, Indian leaders – mostly Hindus, but also some Muslims – and British officials began to express concern about the seemingly rapid rate of population growth in India, which at the time was increasing by over 1% annually .


Asia Times

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