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The radicalisation of India’s young Hindus

Members of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 2018. Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty

A Muslim friend from the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh recently called me “seeking counsel”, says Apoorvanand in Al Jazeera. His young daughter’s friends had refused to play with her, “after they were warned by other children to stay away from her because of her religion”. This isn’t an isolated incident. A video recently circulated online of an Indian schoolteacher asking her students to slap their Muslim classmate because he had not done his homework. Children “came up one by one and hit the Muslim boy” as the teacher criticised his religion. Another recent video shows a young Hindu girl being applauded by elders as she sings Desh ke gaddaron ko Goli maro – “shoot the traitors of the country”, an anti-Muslim slogan popularised by one of PM Narendra Modi’s ministers.

Slurs and insults are nothing new for India’s 213 million Muslims (who account for more than 10% of the global Islamic population). But what seems to be developing now is the “radicalisation of Hindu youth”. Young people are raised on TV channels, internet platforms and WhatsApp groups “relentlessly spreading anti-Muslim propaganda”. Educational institutions run by government-sponsored Hindu nationalist groups tell children that “India has been the land of Hindus, which was infiltrated by Muslims and Christians”. Hindu youth see violence against other religions “celebrated or at least tolerated”; they see people who provoke the violence gain social respectability and “get elected to state legislatures and parliament”. An entire generation “is being turned into unknowing criminals”.

🇮🇳🧐 Members of India’s ruling party have tried to have the iconic Taj Mahal – famously built by the Muslim Mughal emperor Shah Jahan – recast as a Hindu temple. Last year a Hindu nationalist ally of Modi, Rajneesh Singh, filed a petition at the Lucknow high court demanding a new archaeological survey to prove that the majestic mausoleum is in fact a temple dedicated to Shiva. “Around 20 rooms in Taj Mahal are locked,” he claimed. “It is believed that in these rooms there are idols of Hindu gods.”