India’s Muslim communities have faced decades of discrimination, which experts say has worsened under the Hindu nationalist BJP’s government.
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Muslim women in the state of Assam protest against India’s new citizenship law in February 2020. Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images
Some two hundred million Muslims live in India, making up the predominantly Hindu country’s largest minority group. For decades, Muslim communities have faced discrimination in employment and education and encountered barriers to achieving wealth and political power. They are disproportionately the victims of communal violence.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling party have moved to limit Muslims’ rights, particularly through the Citizenship Amendment Act, which allows fast-tracked citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from nearby countries.
India is home to some two hundred million Muslims, one of the world’s largest Muslim populations but a minority in the predominately Hindu country. Since India’s independence, Muslims have faced systematic discrimination, prejudice, and violence, despite constitutional protections.
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Experts say anti-Muslim sentiments have heightened under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda since elected to power in 2014. Since Modi’s reelection in 2019, the government has pushed controversial policies that critics say explicitly ignore Muslims’ rights and are effectively intended to disenfranchise millions of Muslims. The moves have sparked protests in India and drawn international condemnation.
How many Muslims live in India?
India is a country of religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Its estimated two hundred million Muslims, most of whom identify as Sunni, account for about 15 percent of the population, by far the largest minority group. Hindus make up about 80 percent. The country’s Muslim communities are diverse, with differences in language, caste, ethnicity, and access to political and economic power.
How did India’s partition influence Hindu-Muslim relations?
Some of the animus between India’s Hindus and Muslims can be traced back to the cataclysmic partition of British India in 1947, scholars say. Economically devastated after World War II, the British lacked the resources to maintain their empire and moved to leave the subcontinent. In the years before partition, the Indian National Congress party, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, pushed for independence, organizing civil disobedience and mass protests against British rule. Meanwhile, the All-India Muslim League political group, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, called for a separate state for Muslims.