At a conference in India last month, a Hindu extremist dressed head-to-toe in the religion’s holy color, saffron, called on her supporters to kill Muslims and “protect” the country.
“If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill 2 million (Muslims), then we will win … protect India, and make it a Hindu nation,” said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party, according to a video of the event.
Her words and calls for violence from other religious leaders were met with a roar of applause from the large audience, a video from the three-day conference in the northern Indian city of Haridwar shows.
But across India, people were outraged. Nearly a month on, many are still furious at the lack of government response or arrests over the comments, which they say highlights a worsening climate for the country’s Muslims.
After mounting pressure, India’s top court intervened on Wednesday, asking for a response from state and federal authorities within 10 days.Pandey and several others are being investigated by local police for insulting religious beliefs, a charge that carries a possible sentence of up to four years in prison, Haridwar police officials told CNN.
Neither Pandey, nor the others, have publicly commented about the outcry or investigations.
Late Thursday, police in Uttarakhand state, where Haridwar is located, arrested a man who spoke at the event, senior Haridwar Police official Shekhar Suyal told CNN. It is unclear what the man said at the event. Police have not formally charged anyone with any crime.CNN has contacted India’s Ministry of Minority Affairs, the Hindu Mahasabha and Pandey, but has not received a response.
Analysts say the Hindu Mahasabha is at the tip of a broader trend in India which has seen an alarming rise in support for extremist Hindu nationalist groups since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power nearly eight years ago.Although these groups aren’t directly associated with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his own Hindu nationalist agenda, and the lack of repercussions for these groups’ previous vitriolic comments, has given them tacit support, making them even more brazen, analysts say.
One of the things Tom Holland points out in DOMINION is that the concept of the secular is a purely Christian idea and that the Christian west has propagated itself to the world in two ways: through missionaries but also through secularization. Post-Christians imagine secularization is the Endpoint of History. It’s a message we hear everywhere in the west, with the fond belief that as a civilization “matures” it naturally becomes “secular” to the great consternation of something called “religion”.
But in fact, the idea of the secular is a product of Latin Western Christianity, particularly due to her long duel with the state and the idea that there are spheres that are properly this-worldly. There is no Christian math, the sciences are properly conducted with a methodological atheism and the prince is not to rule the Church. When the Christian west comes to places like India, precisely what it does not do is establish a confessional state. It creates a secular one. Likewise, when Ataturk takes over Turkey and kicks out the Ottomans, he makes it a secular state–a concept foreign to Islam up till that time.
Likewise, when a civilization like Turkey or India want to throw off Christian influence they do not become secular. They throw off secularism and reassert religious identity. It’s what both Modi and Erdogan are doing. That’s why India is not stopping its Hindu whackjobs and that is why Erdogan ordered that the secular space of Hagia Sophia Museum be turned back into a mosque.