Shafiq Bagwan was hanging out with a couple of mates in his village of Hasnabad, which is within the Maharashtra state in western India, when he opened Instagram on his cellphone and noticed that his youthful brother Taufiq had posted an replace. When he clicked on it, his coronary heart fell.
Taufiq, who is eighteen, had posted an image of a Seventeenth-century Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, with an outline of him as “the daddy of Hindu nationalists.”
“I instantly known as him up and ordered him to delete the story,” Bagwan says. “I acquired scared for him, and I hoped that no one had seen it.” It was too late. The following day, June 20, Taufiq was arrested and charged with“deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the non secular emotions.”
Taufiq had been caught up in a web based campaign, initiated by Hindu nationalists in Maharashtra, who’ve taken it upon themselves to police social media for something, regardless of how tenuous, they will spin as offensive to Hindus. These teams, which seem to have hyperlinks to native authorities and legislation enforcement, are turning Instagram and WhatsApp into hostile areas for Muslims, who face harassment and arrest for seemingly innocuous posts. It’s one other demonstration of how the Indian web is coming to reflect the Hindu nationalist slant of politics underneath the federal government of Narendra Modi.
“What has occurred offline has occurred on-line,” says Osama Manzar, founding father of the Digital Empowerment Basis, an NGO. “The perspective stays the identical. Social media is simply one other software to subjugate.”
Aurangzeb died greater than 300 years in the past, however he’s just lately change into one thing of a protest image for Muslim youth in Maharashtra. Throughout his rule, which lasted from 1648 to 1707, he expanded the Mughal empire throughout a lot of the Indian subcontinent. To some Hindus, he’s a tyrannical determine who imposed discriminatory taxes and destroyed temples and who was resisted by Shivaji, one other warrior king who’s revered in Maharashtra.
With tensions between communities working excessive, Aurangzeb has change into an emblem for each the Hindu majority and its 13 million Muslims, who make up round 12 p.c of the inhabitants of the state.
“Aurangzeb, a Muslim ruler, is only a political software to focus on as we speak’s extraordinary Muslims,” says Surendra Jondhale, a professor within the division of politics on the College of Mumbai. “The fitting-wing teams have used Shivaji versus Aurangzeb—a battle between two kingdoms—to propagate a Hindu versus Muslim binary.”
In February 2023, led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Get together, the union authorities renamed town of Aurangabad in Maharashtra—named after Aurangzeb—to Sambhaji Nagar. In rallies that adopted the renaming—and which have been attended by members of the BJP—T Raja Singh, a celebration member and (presently suspended) lawmaker, mentioned that any Muslim sad with the title change can be thought-about a traitor.
The BJP has been broadly accused of stoking non secular tensions throughout India, and of selling a Hindu identification for India that runs opposite to the nation’s founding rules of spiritual pluralism.
In response to typically brazen hate speech and discrimination from public figures, younger Muslims have adopted Aurangzeb as an emblem of defiance. “It comes from a spot of angst and humiliation, the place the Muslims are constantly being provoked,” says Imtiaz Jaleel, a lawmaker from Aurangabad. “Below regular circumstances, I don’t assume the Muslims even take into consideration Aurangzeb.”