Has RSS and its cohorts Talibanized Hinduism in India?

File picture of RSS workers

Taliban doesn’t necessarily need to be turban clad, swinging AK47, loitering around the streets of Kabul, aiming to kill those who don’t necessarily agree with them. Numerous Taliban are roaming free in India in our midst waiting to pounce upon anyone who doesn’t conform to their definition of Indians. These home-grown Taliban of India take the law into their hands to define and decide who can do what and where. At first, the Muslims and Dalits are their victims but soon this violent mindset will consume the whole society? 

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Mushtaque Rahamat | TwoCircles.net


Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan some four weeks ago, there has been a chorus from the right-wing rouble rousers in India and numerous faceless and traceless Hindu organizations clamouring for Indian Muslims to denounce the Taliban unequivocally. Some media-loving Indian Muslims equally went gung-ho and congratulated the Taliban for their stupendous success. The doublespeak of Hindu Right-wing and Taliban-loving Muslims were out in the open for everyone to see. 


It is the height of idiocy on the part of anyone living in India whether a Muslim or not to raise a toast to the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan especially given their previous records and present ideological dispensation. It is equally wrong on part of right-wing Muslim haters, rouble-rousers to seek denunciations from Indian Muslims of any event anywhere in the world carried out by Muslims. However, as a concerned citizen of India, like everyone else, Muslims of India will denounce but no less and no more. Indian Muslims should not be expected to apologize for every sneeze in the world. It is up to all of us to call out violence, discrimination and injustice against anyone irrespective of place, creed, religion or religion.


Sensing electoral benefits in the upcoming state election in Uttar Pradesh, the state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath suddenly realised how badly women and children were treated at the hands of the Taliban in their first stint in the power from 1996-2001 before being driven away by the NATO and USA forces in the wake of 11 September 2001. He exhorted to expose people who are supporting the Taliban. However, he conveniently forgot the record of his administration during which more than 60 children died due to the lack of oxygen at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College and his administration went from denial to finding a scapegoat in Dr Kafeel Khan who had tried to arrange critical oxygen supply. Dr Kafeel was put behind bars and suspended from his job and hounded like a criminal before finally being absolved by the departmental enquiry.


Earlier this month, at least 50 people, mostly children, had died of fever and hundreds were admitted to various hospitals in India.


Since 2014, there has been a steep hike in the number of lynching cases in India especially of Muslims and Dalits for cattle trade, for taking a certain diet and sometimes for just to be there at the wrong time and company. 


Interestingly though, cases were either not filed against the perpetrators of violence against minority communities in India or they got scot-free and in some cases, it was the victims who faced charges. In one case of Pehlu Khan, who was lynched by Gau Rakhshak, no one was found guilty. Hindu goons and groups are roaming free with complete impunity. Many cases of lynching, mob violence against Muslims are generally linked to Bajrang Dal, VHP and their numerous monikers who surface time and again.


Taliban was exacting revenge and meting out corporal punishment to hapless ordinary Afghan men and women in its first stint of power from 1996-2001 for venturing out of their homes without a male escort, not wearing a burqa or simply not sporting a beard. Bajrang Dal, in 1999, allegedly set fire Graham Stewart Steins, and his two minor sons were burnt to death the station wagon in which they were sleeping. The equivalence must not be lost in the whataboutery.  


The 2001 destruction of the two giant Buddhas in Bamiyan was, by far, the most spectacular attack against the historical and cultural heritage of Afghanistan committed during the country’s recent period of turmoil by the wrongheaded zealots of the Taliban. The world couldn’t do much except watch in horror this brutal and wanton act of cultural and historical barbarism. On 6 December 1992, almost nine years before the world came to witness the horrors of Bamiyan destruction, India had witnessed its own Bamiyan destruction – the carefully planned and executed demolition of a 400-year-old Babri Masjid at the hands of Hindi fanatics gathered from all over India in the city of Ayodhya as kar sevaks at the behest of VHP. The same kar sevas are mobilising and rouble rousers of the current ruling dispensation. On the eve of the fateful day, Atal Vihari Bajpayee and LK Advani among scores of other BJP leaders who had so far fed into the steam mobilised resources and brought kar sevaks from across India and extolled them to demolish the Babri Masjid. The 6 December 1992 itched is itched in the memory of India and of the Muslims forever as the date when a mob prevailed over law and history. Cases were filed, an inquiry commission was set up and after decades of the slow-progressing judicial process, no one was found guilty of the demolition of the Babri Masjid despite the fact the whole process of demolition was reported and recorded by various journalists. The political leaders involved in creating the Ram Mandir movement, which ultimately led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, expressed their involvement on camera. Yet no one was punished.


Unchecked power and brute force and the post-September 2001 events saved one while investigating agencies and judiciary saved another. 


Crime against women and Dalits

The crime against marginalised communities like Dalits in India has increased manyfold in recent years. According to the National Crime Record Bureau records, crimes against Dalits rose by 746 per cent between 2006 and 2016. The figures suggest that the cases of crime continued to rise even after the enactment of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention) of Atrocities Act in 1989.


According to another report, ten Dalit women were raped every day in India last year as per official figures. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of cases of violence against women as well as the highest number of cases of sexual assault against girls. Three states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan – report more than half of the cases of atrocities against the Dalits.


During their rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban and their allies committed massacres against Afghan civilians, denied UN food supplies to 160,000 starving civilians, and conducted a policy of scorched earth, burning vast areas of fertile land and destroying tens of thousands of homes.


In the Indian capital alone, the crime against women has increased manyfold. Rape cases rose to 833 in 2021 from 580 in the same period of 2020. Crime against women in the capital has increased by 63.2% in the first six months of 2021 as compared to 2020 as per data shared by Delhi Police.


We Indians never had a dearth of spiritual gurus, politicians and others on schooling us how women should be dressed to avoid molestation and rape and what the sanskari Indian women should look like. Taliban, interestingly, have a similar penchant for what Afghan women should wear and whatnot.


The right-wing Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha has frequently demanded that a dress code be introduced in schools and colleges and mobile phones be banned on their premises “to check increasing obscenity”.


Some colleges and schools banned ripped jeans and t-shirts for girls to wear to avoid molestation.


Religious Freedom

All major religions of the world called India home but this is not without restriction imposed by state and non-state actors on the religious minorities especially when it comes to Muslims and Christians. Since the ascendance of BJP to power, there has been a concerted effort by many non-state actors, religious organisations to impose restrictions and not allow free and fair practices of one’s faith. We have several legislations passed by many states restricting people from choosing or changing their faith in the guise of so-called ‘Love-Jihad.’ Likes of Bajrang Dal, VHP have run a campaign called Ghar-Wapsi (homecoming) to bring back Muslims and Christians to the fold of Hinduism, who according to them were converted to Christianity and Islam by force, deception or by luring them.


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended putting India on a list of CPCs or Countries of Particular Concern for the second year in a row due to the violations of religious freedoms in the year 2020. Earlier, in its 2020 Human Rights Report, the US State Department pointed out several Human Rights issues in India. 


Campaign against Minorities: Christians and Muslims

Crimes against Christians have seen a steep increase of 60% between 2016 and 2019. In 2019 alone there were 527 incidents of hate crimes against Christians of which 109 occurred in Uttar Pradesh alone, followed by 75 in Tamil Nadu, 32 in Karnataka, 31 in Maharashtra and 30 in Bihar, according to the annual report released by Persecution Relief.


There has been a vicious campaign against Muslims in India in the name of ‘Love-Jihad’, ‘Corona Jihad’. The Hindu nationalists and terror outfits never leave a chance to perpetuate violence against Muslims. In 2020, the outbreak of coronavirus in the country’s capital was linked to a gathering in one of the mosques. The entire elite media went berserk and labelled it as ‘Corona Jihad’, vilified the whole community, and the administration arrested scores of people, including even some foreign Muslims visitors who had taken shelter at the mosques in the ensuing confusion. They were targeted and charge-sheeted. 


Economic deprivation

Social media cells of the Hindu right-wing is running in overdrive in calling for the boycott of the Muslim business especially of hawkers, vegetable and fruit sellers and bangle sellers. Just a few weeks ago, a bangle seller was thrashed by Hindu goons for selling his wares in the Hindu locality. Taslim Ali, the bangle seller, was instead implicated in the case of molestation and fake identity. Many observers believe the case of molestation is an after-thought. Similarly, one dosa vendor had to change the name of his stall to American Dosa after he was roughed up by Hindu goons for carrying the name of Shrinath Dosa; a Hindu sounding name. In another case, a scrap dealer was beaten by rowdy Hindu elements and asked to repeat Jai Sri Ram.


Pratik Sinha, the co-founder of the portal Alt News recalls that calls for boycotting Muslim street vendors happened last year during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. What is new, he says, is more and more conversations on social media and blatant calls to boycott Muslims economically.


A May 2020 report by a Delhi-based civil society group, Citizens against Hate, notes, “Economic boycott of Muslims too have been reported from across the country, directly affecting the livelihoods of a community that has already largely been confined to the informal sector.”


The recent attacks on Muslim street vendors are tell-tale markers of deepening political polarisation and attempts at further economic marginalisation of informal workers of the minority community.


Taliban doesn’t necessarily need to be turban clad, swinging AK47, loitering around the streets of Kabul, aiming to kill those who don’t necessarily agree with them. In fact, numerous Taliban are roaming free in India in our midst waiting to pounce upon anyone who doesn’t conform to their definition of Indians. These home-grown Taliban of India take the law into their hands to define and decide who can do what and where. At first, the Muslims and Dalits are their victims but soon this violent mindset will consume the whole society? No societies ever progressed with hate, violence no matter against whom this has been directed. As Pavan Verma, a former diplomat and former Rajya Sabha member in his new book The Great Hindu Civilisation rightly said “RSS and BJP have Talibanized Hinduism, eroded India’s pluralism.”



Mushtaque Rahamat has a post-graduation in History (1991-1993) from Aligarh Muslim University, India. He is currently based in Australia. He tweets at @MushtaueR