Since India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year, the country's Muslims have expressed growing concerns about a spate of inflammatory statements made by Hindu nationalist leaders and activists.
Most recently, the death of a 50-year-old farmer by a group of about 200 people over rumors that he was eating beef has brought rhetoric under Modi's India into the spotlight again.
Some of the recent flash points:
The beef ban in Maharashtra and the mob lynching of a Muslim man over meat
The death of Mohammad Akhlaq, the Muslim man murdered for allegedly eating beef, has sparked fierce debate in India. To many Hindus, cows are sacred and eating beef is taboo, but the fervor over eating beef has never been so volatile in secular India. Writer Shekhar Gupta called the killing “a chilling turning point in our politics" and a rise in "Hindu supremacist mob mentality" that Modi's party "won't unequivocally condemn or disown.”
Months before the infamous mob killing, the BJP government in the western state of Maharashtra banned the sale of beef because the cow is worshipped as a holy animal by many Hindus. Muslims dominate the meat industry in many parts of the country. “This is a political decision,” said Mohammed Aqil Qureshi, president of the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association in New Delhi. “They want to gratify the Hindus and harass the Muslims.” There have been calls for a national beef ban as well.
The hanging of Yakub Memon
In July, India hanged Yakub Memon, a Muslim accountant convicted of helping plan bombings in 1993 in Mumbai that killed 257 people. Many critics, including the Muslim lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, opposed the execution saying that there were other non-Muslim convicts waiting in the death row that were given clemency. More than 15,000 Muslims joined Memon’s funeral procession in Mumbai.
A call to increase birth rates to 'protect Hindu religion'
Sakshi Maharaj, a lawmaker from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that Hindu women must have at least four children each to keep up with the growth in the population of Muslims in India. "The concept of four wives and 40 children will not work in India and the time has come when a Hindu woman must produce at least four children in order to protect Hindu religion," Maharaj said. Muslim account for about 14 percent of India's more than 1.2 billion people.
The drive to convert Muslims, Christians to Hinduism
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (or the World Hindu Council, which is associated Modi’s party) launched a program called “Gharwapsi” (or Homecoming) to urge India’s Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism, which they said was the religion of their ancestors. The controversial debate began in December 2014 when more than 50 impoverished Muslim families in a slum in the northern city of Agra attended a simple ceremony at which they were asked by a Hindu priest to chant and throw offerings into the holy fire in front of some Hindu idols.
Celebrating Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi
In December 2014, Maharaj again fueled anger when he called the assassin of India’s revered freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi a “patriot.” Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse, a firebrand Hindu activist who accused Gandhi of being very tolerant of Muslims and of “appeasing” them. Godse is widely known for his extreme anti-Muslim views. Maharaj later retracted the statement.
Declaring a Hindu national scripture
At an event in New Delhi last year, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Hindu scripture Bhagwad Gita must be declared a “national scripture.” Another BJP politician, Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of the northern Haryana state said Bhagwad Gita is considered more important than India’s secular Constitution.
Members of the World Hindu Council launched a campaign last year urging Hindu families to be on guard against what they called “love jihad” – romantic relationships between young Hindus and Muslims. They accused Muslim men of coercing Hindu women into love in order to convert them to Islam.
Note: This post was updated with news of a mob lynching in a village near New Delhi.