Bogey of ‘economic jihad’: a conspiracy to target livelihood of Indian Muslims

Hindutva activists marking the carts of Hindu vendors with saffron flags in 2020. | Photo by The Wire

The purpose of these bogus conspiracy theories is to target the livelihood of Muslims and weaken them economically. 

Md Asif Khan |

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The term ‘economic jihad’, was coined by Hindutva groups to target Muslims. The right-wing Hindu leaders often use such hateful terminology to construct and weave an anti-Muslim narrative in India. One feature of this anti-Muslim narrative is manufacturing conspiracy theories. One such conspiracy theory being floated is that Muslims are hijacking jobs of Hindus in formal and informal sectors and that Muslims sell their goods at a cheaper rate and Muslims are using Hindu identity to attract customers in Hindu majority areas.

The pertinent question is that what is the purpose of such bogus conspiracy theories? Certainly, the purpose is to target the livelihood of Muslims and weaken them economically.

The Hindutva effort, however, is not limited to mere conspiracy theories. Indian Muslims have been facing violence from Hindutva forces for a long time, and Muslim properties are often targeted by Hindu extremist mobs during communal violence.

It is quite evident from the past that how Muslims properties were targeted during various anti-Muslim pogroms in India. A recent example of this was seen during the Delhi violence as well. The situation, however, has become worse since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India. Multiple reports and accounts suggest that anti-Muslim hatred has become a part of mainstream Indian politics. The right-wing forces don’t now need the excuse of communal riots to target the properties of Muslims. These forces are using various methods to target the Muslim community and weaken them economically.

Under the present BJP regime at the centre, the Hindu extremist forces enjoy impunity. These forces spread conspiracy theories like ‘Economic Jihad’ and instigate Hindutva mobs to target Muslims’ businesses. Even during the pandemic, the right-wing forces spread anti-Muslim propaganda to target poor Muslims’ livelihood. In March-April 2020, when India was badly hit by the first wave of coronavirus pandemic, the Modi govt suddenly announced a nationwide lockdown which made a common man’s life more difficult. During that time, the Hindutva ecosystem was busy spreading anti-Muslim propaganda and they were blaming Muslims for the pandemic. They started targeting the livelihood of poor Muslim vendors by spreading obnoxious lies that Muslims are mixing their saliva in food/fruits/vegetables to infect Hindus with the virus. This hateful propaganda had serious consequences on the ground, and many poor Muslim vendors were attacked and were not allowed to enter the Hindu majority areas. Their shops and carts were forcibly shut down by Hindu extremists.

The Hindutva trolls and certain Hindu leaders ran a campaign to boycott Muslims economically. Last year, the BJP lawmaker Suresh Tiwari was caught on camera warning people against buying vegetables from Muslims amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. Suresh Chavhanke who is editor-in-chief of Sudarshan TV and very close to top BJP leadership ran many hate campaigns against Muslims. Last year, he had called for the economic boycott of the Muslims. In June this year, the Hindutva groups targeted poor Muslim vendors in Uttam Nagar, New Delhi. They accused Muslim vendors of ‘Rehdi Jihad’ (Street vendor Jihad) and called for their economic boycott. A Muslim vendor named Rizwan was also attacked by unidentified Hindutva goons during that time.

What is important to highlight about these extremist Hindutva forces is that they want to target every Muslim, whether that Muslim is a beggar or a daily wage worker or a successful businessman. A few months ago, a video of the hate-monger Narsinghanand Saraswati went viral on social media. In the video, he was seen saying that all those plumbers, electricians, washermen etc who come to Hindu households for work and jobs are Muslim. He further said that these Muslim workers take advantage of the situation and lure Hindu women. The purpose of such a hateful mission is to deprive Muslims of their livelihood.

A few weeks ago, iD Fresh Food, a Bangalore based company, which is best known for selling idli and dosa batter, became the targets of an incendiary and communal hateful campaign. The company is owned by Muslims and the Hindutva trolls spread misinformation on social media claiming (falsely) that the company used cow bones in its batter.

In August, a poor Muslim beggar and a boy were attacked by Hindutva goons in Ajmer. Hindu extremists objected because he was begging in the Hindu majority area and was playing Qawwali. They asked him to go to Pakistan.

These are not isolated incidents. These incidents are well organized and part of anti-Muslim hateful propaganda currently in sway across India. Recently, many such incidents happened in Madhya Pradesh. A Muslim bangle seller was attacked by a Hindu extremist mob in Indore. Following this, a Muslim hawker was attacked because he failed to show his identity card in Dewas. A Muslim scrap dealer was forced to chant Jai Sri Ram near Ujjain.

What needs to be highlighted here is that the Hindu extremists just need an opportunity to harass the Muslim community. For example, festivals are the occasion for celebrations and spreading joy, but it is an opportunity for Hindu extremists to target Muslims. At present, the Hindu festival of Navratri is being celebrated in India which lasts for 10 days. Many Hindus fast during these days and abstain from consuming meat products. However, the Hindu extremists are busy targeting Muslims’ businesses during the festivals. These forces target Muslim meat sellers and hotels, forcing them to shut down their shops during the Navratri festival. These meat sellers and shops are poor Muslims and their livelihood depends on their daily business, yet the Hindu extremists want these poor Muslims to shut their shops for 10 days.

The truth is that there is no such thing as ‘economic jihad’ perpetrated by the Muslim community. The Hindutva right-wing forces, however, are certainly running a fascist agenda for an organized economic boycott of Muslims.

Md Asif Khan is a social activist.