For decades, the city of Varanasi in Utter Pradesh was known for its syncretic culture, with Hindus and Muslims worshipping side by side in their respective places of worship. All that changed in May this year.
On 12 May, a district court in Varanasi ordered a videographic survey of the city’s Gyanvapi mosque which is located just metres away from the Kashi Vishwanath Hindu temple. The order followed a petition filed by a group of five Hindu women last year who sought permission to worship within the outer walls of the mosque.
In spite of the objections raised by the committee that manages the mosque, and in rejection of a stay order issued by the Allahabad High Court, the survey was completed on 16 May. The lawyer representing the Hindu petitioners subsequently claimed that a shivling (phallic symbol of the Hindu deity Shiva) was found in the compound of the mosque, which the Hindus argue should grant them a right to worship in the premises whilst barring Muslims from entering the area.
Continue reading “Scratching the wounds of the past: India’s disputes over mosques and temples are only increasing religious tensions”
Incidents of communal violence have risen sharply in Karnataka state in recent months, and anti-Muslim sentiments are on the rise.
First there was the hijab controversy that began on 28 December 2021 when the authorities of an educational institution in Udipi, Karnataka banned six Muslim girls from entering with their hijabs (headscarves) on. Several other colleges followed suit with bans that were upheld by the Karnataka High Court on 15 March 2022.
Ministers in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile have not shied away from expressing their radical agenda. In February 2022 the senior BJP leader in Karnataka, K S Eshwarappa, said that a day would come when the ‘saffron’ flag (a symbol of Hindu nationalism) would become the national flag.
Continue reading “The failure of the Karnataka authorities to stand against religious intolerance has yielded sad yet expected results”
The Indian film Kashmir Files has been mired in controversy since its release on 11 March. The 270-minute-long film, directed by Vivek Agnihotri, an open supporter of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), focuses on the brutal killings of estimates of between 30 and 80 Kashmiri Pandits or Kashmiri Hindus from 1988-1990 and their exodus from Indian Administered Kashmir.
The film revolves around a young student who finally discovers that his parents were killed by Muslim militants and not by accident, as his grandfather had told him. The student is caught between two conflicting narratives, that of his grandfather who is seeking justice for the exodus, and that of his mentor – a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor who tells him no such appeasement is necessary.
The historical events on which the film is based occurred in the 1990s, amidst a rising insurgency in Kashmir, when the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a militant separatist organisation comprising Muslims, targeted the state’s minority Hindus – Kashmiri Pandits – forcing an estimated 75% of the Hindu population to leave the state and seek refuge in other parts of India. Governments in power since then, including the BJP, have done little for their resettlement.
Continue reading “‘Kashmir Files’ – A film used to fuel religious intolerance in India”
In July 2020, the government of Pakistan announced the creation of a ‘Single National Curriculum’ (SNC) to replace its 2006 school curriculum. Given the country’s long history of discriminatory practices in educational settings, and the SNC’s stated objective of providing “all children… a fair and equal opportunity to receive high quality education,” one would have expected this to be a welcome development for minorities in Pakistan, a chance to tackle inequalities and division from the ground up.
Sadly, this was not the case.
In an attempt to make the proposed curriculum more digestible to Pakistan’s more conservative Islamist elements, and particularly to win the support of the country’s madrassahs (Islamic religious schools), the government of Punjab granted the Islamic Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB) a role in the review and approval of all textbooks under the SNC.
This has proved disastrous, providing the MUB with an opportunity to reinforce the sectarian and divisive agendas which have permeated the Pakistani education system for decades.
Continue reading “Set up to fail: Pakistan’s Single National Curriculum will only make life harder for religious minority children”
On 11 February, Abdul Qadir, a 65-year-old Ahmadi homeopathic doctor, was shot dead outside his homeopathic clinic in the Bazikhel area of Peshawar in north-western Pakistan. His killing marked the latest in a concerning uptick in religiously motivated attacks on Ahmadis, particularly in Peshawar.
Last year, CSW documented at least five other instances in which Ahmadis were killed, including an incident in which 31-year-old doctor, Tahir Mahmood, was murdered in front of his family at his home in Murch Balochan in Nankana Sahib District, Punjab.
Continue reading “Criminalised, killed and cursed: The plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community”
The fact that Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community has a long history of experiencing harassment, discrimination, violence and other human rights violations within Pakistani society leaves little doubt that these murders are religiously motivated. A pattern is also clearly emerging whereby prominent doctors and academics have been specifically singled-out by extremists.