Eid al Fitr celebrations in India have been marred by a chain of attacks by Hindu extremists and vilification campaigns by nationalist media and hard-liners who have long espoused an anti-Muslim stance.

Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims.
Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims. (AP)

Muslims across India have marked Eid al Fitr by offering prayers outside mosques, with the celebrations this year following a series of attacks by Hindu extremists against the religious minority during the holy month of Ramadan.

"We will not have the same kind of festivity" this year, said Mohammad Habeeb ur Rehman, a civil engineer in India's financial capital, Mumbai. "This is the most painful Eid with the worst memories for Indian Muslims."

Anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks have surged across the country in the last month, including stone throwing between Hindu and Muslim groups during religious processions and subsequent demolitions by authorities of a number of properties belonging mostly to Muslims.

The community, which makes up 14 percent of India's 1.4 billion population, is reeling from vilification by hard-line Hindu nationalists who have long espoused an anti-Muslim stance. 

Some leaders of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have tacitly supported the violence, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far been silent about it.

Eid al Fitr is typically marked with communal prayers, celebratory gatherings around festive meals, and new clothes, but celebrations in India for the past two years have been marred by Covid-19 restrictions.

In India's capital, New Delhi, hundreds assembled in the Jama Masjid, one of the country's largest mosques, to offer Eid prayers there for the first time in over two years due to pandemic restrictions. Families came together early Tuesday morning and many people shared hugs and wishes.

Mohammed Hamid, a software engineer, said he was grateful to be offering prayers at the mosque again.

"It's a good feeling because there was a lockdown for the past two years. With the grace of God, we are able to offer Eid prayers here with the children and we are thankful,” Hamid said.

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'Collective loss'

In the India-administered portion of disputed Kashmir, the Muslim festival has been subdued for the past three years because of an unprecedented military lockdown after India stripped the region's semi-autonomy and annexed it in 2019, followed by the pandemic. 

The region also saw a rise in violence during Ramadan, with at least 20 rebels, two civilians and five police and soldiers killed.

"As we prepare to celebrate Eid, a strong sense of collective loss jars at us," said Bashir Ahmed, a businessman in Srinagar.

A violent insurgency against Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region and New Delhi’s brutal response have raged for over three decades. 

Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.

READ MORE: Muslim homes razed as clashes mar Hindu festival in India

Muslims under pressure 

Since Modi came to power in 2014, Hindu mobs have lynched scores of people — mainly Muslims and Dalit Hindus — suspected of illegally transporting cows or consuming beef.

Hindu far-right groups have also targeted Muslims over "love jihad", the conspiracy theory that Muslims are luring Hindu women with the aim of conversion and eventually national domination.

Muslims were also accused of spreading Covid-19. In recent years, Hindu mobs have targeted Muslims praying on Fridays in northern India.

Earlier this year, BJP banned wearing of hijab in classrooms in southern Karnataka state. Hardline Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions on Islamic headgear in more Indian states. Muslim mutton sellers and fruit vendors have also become the target of the far-right Hindu groups.

During a Hindu festival last month, Hindu mobs pelted stones on mosques in several areas while DJs played loud music outside the mosques as worshippers prayed.

Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims.

According to Gregory Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch, genocide of Muslims in India could be about to take place. Stanton is said to have predicted the massacre of the Tutsi in Rwanda years before it took place in 1994.

READ MORE: Hindu nationalism will ultimately harm all of India

Source: AP