When the Flame Ignites: Islamophobia comes to India
Ram Navami is an Indian festival held yearly in honor of the birth of Lord Ram. It is an anticipated celebration rich in tradition, music, and prayer. What it’s not associated with is unrest—until this year.
Hindus have been convinced by the use of propaganda on state-run digital and social media platforms that they are the intended victims of a religious revolution by Muslims, threatening their rights and freedom. The inciting rhetoric has ignited a fierce anti-Muslim movement, with bulldozers targeting their homes, businesses, and places of worship in an effort to rid them from the country. The sole intent is to see India as a supreme Hindu nation.
Days after the April 10, 2022, violent outbreak, similar clashes took place in New Delhi, the capital of India, during the celebration of the birth of the Hindu god, Hanuman. The unprovoked violence should serve as an alarm as to the power of—and danger in—the often unverified and inflamed spread of fearmongering and hate-filled rhetoric on the vast media platforms. The act of diminishing a people due to race or religion is a fast track to brutality, oppression, and loss of life and property.
The unprovoked attacks, fueled by the spread of misinformation by the right-wing Hindutva groups, have resulted in normally peaceful national celebrations becoming the weapon of choice for practices of intimidation and threat to the minority Muslim communities, even casting blame on Muslims for the disruption of Hindu festivals, resulting in punishment and arrest.
This disturbing account of unprovoked violence toward Muslims in India is fueled by misinformation and propaganda from news and social media outlets, as well as right‑wing editorial media constructing a false narrative of Muslims as a threat. That narrative continues to spiral into a climate of dangerous Islamophobia.
While propaganda is not new, the intricate network of avenues for spreading hate-fueled speech and dangerous false rhetoric has grown exponentially. Like wildfire, it can leave so much destruction in its wake.