Muslim livelihood and businesses in India are in distress as they struggle to hold off the effects of the increasing anti-Muslim sentiments caused by contentious political rhetoric.
In April, a right-wing Hindu group urged the public to boycott Muslim mango traders. The group alleged that Muslims are monopolizing the mango trade in Karnataka.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) distanced itself from the issue. Kamakshipalya Gopalaiah, a member of the BJP and the Horticulture minister, said the government has nothing to do with what consumers buy.
“It is up to the individual to buy fruits from whomever or wherever they want,” Gopalaiah said.
Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, dismissed the allegations of the right-wing groups. “There is no Muslim monopoly; it’s another excuse to enforce untouchability against Muslims,” Owaisi said.
Now, a call for banning Muslim sculptors from sculpting Hindu idols is gaining traction. Sthanik Srinivasan of the Cheluvanaraya Swamy temple in Melukote said he would campaign across Karnataka to ban Muslim sculptors.
“The idols of Hindu gods sculpted by Muslim artists can’t be installed in the Hindu temples; it is against the traditions,” Srinivasan said. A right-wing Hindutva group backed Srinivasan’s plan and demanded that Hindu temples not use Muslim-carved idols.
The state is still grappling with the fall-out of the hijab ban in its classrooms.
Saroj Chadha of the Times of India said the hijab row had opened a Pandora’s Box, increasing pressure against Muslims, including Muslim businesses.
Earlier this month, after the Ugadi, Hindu’s new year festival, calls for banning halal-meat products were made by right-wing groups. Chikkamagaravalli Thimme Ravi, national secretary of the BJP, called it an “economic jihad.”
In Bengaluru, Karnataka’s capital, calls to boycott Muslim cab drivers and tour operators are rising. A far-right Hindu group, Bharatha Rakshana Vedike (BRV), leads the campaign. According to Bharat Shetty, president of BRV, dealing with Muslim businesses disrespects Hindu culture and tradition.
“They call us kafirs, and just as their religion is important to them, ours is to us,” Shetty said.
India’s Hindu-nationalist politicians are stoking the public towards increasingly divisive majoritarian violence. Modi’s lack of attention to the BJP’s role in the growing animosity exacerbates the situation.
Subir Sinha, Senior Lecturer at the School of African and Oriental studies at the University of London, said in an interview with France24 that Islamophobia is deeply entrenched in India.