The call to prayer rings out through the crowded, bustling streets of Old Delhi – a maze of chaotic streets full of honking scooters, shouting rickshaw wallas, vendors selling jewelery and eateries laden with sweet delicacies.
Set away from the din of the street through narrow alleys and stone stairs flanked by old buildings with ornate facades is the house of 65-year-old Alauddin, who goes by one name, his four sons and their families. They can trace their relatives back to the Mughal Empire, which ruled India between 1526 and 1857.
The time ticks past 7 p.m. and the family is settling down on the floor to break their fast with iftar, the first meal eaten after sunset during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, or Ramzan in India.
Dates are eaten first followed by deep fried cheese, potatoes and a spicy dish of curried apple, melon, and lentils washed down with iced strawberry milk.
It’s a fun and loving family atmosphere, with some of Alauddin’s five grandchildren running about and giggling as their pet birds chirp in their cages, and the adults discuss their fourth-generation family sweet shop.
“We eat, all of us together,” said Alauddin’s oldest son Adnan Qureshi, 39. “We feel good when they all come, everyone sits and has a laugh.”
But conversation soon turns to politics.
On May 23, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won another landslide victory in the country’s mammoth general elections. He’ll be sworn in as Prime Minister again on Thursday, ushering in another five years of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule.
While much of the country celebrated the stunning victory of a man who has promised economic reform and development, others, especially minorities and liberals, have grown increasingly concerned about the impact of the BJP’s Hindu nationalist background on the country’s secular fabric.
The BJP has its roots in the right wing-Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – of which Modi is a member – and many of its members are adherents of the Hindutva ideology that promotes a Hindu-first India. It’s a stance that worries liberals and minorities, including more than 170 million Indian Muslims in a country of 1.3 billion people.
“There are a lot of effects (from nationalism), majorly on Muslims and it’s going to get worse,” Alauddin said.
The family, who live in Old Delhi’s Muslim majority neighborhood, said they have not experienced any communal tension here. The community is strong, with Hindus and Muslims living and working together for generations, they said.
But they are concerned that the social fabric may change with the BJP in power for five more years.
“There is no violence in Delhi, but there is a possibility it might happen now,” said Mateen, 35, the youngest son who, like his father, uses just his first name.
Attacks on Muslims and minorities
Attacks under the name of “cow protection” have risen since Modi came to power, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The group said that between May 2015 and December 2018, 44 people suspected of killing or transporting cows for slaughter, or even just eating beef, were killed in vigilante attacks. That number included 36 Muslims.
Human Rights Watch said many of the murders went unpunished in part due to delayed police investigations and “rhetoric” from ruling party politicians, which may have incited mob violence.
“Muslims are scared, very scared,” said Alauddin. “The cow protectors, what they have done in all these places. Muslims are affected.”
In Old Delhi, Mateen said goats and buffalo used to be slaughtered in the neighborhood, but no longer.
“Everything has to go to the slaughterhouse and then the meat is transported here. They are shifting the slaughter house further away,” Mateen said.
It’s not just cow vigilantes that are cause for concern, according to activists. Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly points to a larger theme of right wing nationalists targeting anyone they disagree with, saying many Indians – not just Muslims – now fear a “culture of mob violence.”