Arif: India’s growing intolerance prompted my immigration to Canada

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s description of Muslims as “infiltrators” reflects a broader trend toward religious polarization and nationalism.

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Relocating to a new country is a decision fraught with emotional turmoil and uncertainty. As someone deeply rooted in India, I did not make the decision to move to Canada lightly.

However, the increasingly tense atmosphere in my homeland affirmed the necessity of this decision. I will share why, despite the pain of leaving, growing intolerance and systemic discrimination against minorities like me made the move essential.

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The climate of intolerance in India has been increasing, driven by policies and statements from the highest levels of government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent description of Muslims as “infiltrators” is not simply a political statement. It reflects a broader and alarming trend toward religious polarization and nationalism that prioritizes one religion over others.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, for example, explicitly excludes Muslims from neighboring countries from receiving fast-track citizenship, a move many consider discriminatory and undermines India’s secular constitution.

Modi’s latest comments have sparked significant controversy and concern among India’s minorities.

By claiming that the opposition Congress party, if elected, would “take resources away from Hindus and give them to people with more children” (a veiled reference to Muslims), Modi fueled fears of further communal divisions and discrimination. .

This rhetoric not only exacerbates fears among Muslims but also deepens the feeling of alienation among those who advocate for a secular and inclusive India.

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Continued exposure to divisive rhetoric and discriminatory policies has a significant impact on the mental health of Muslims, minorities, and all conscious citizens. The persistent atmosphere of fear and tension creates chronic stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation among target groups.

This stress affects not only the peace of mind and daily functioning of individuals, but also the collective mental health of the community, undermining social cohesion and perpetuating cycles of fear and prejudice.

The decision to leave involved immense emotional turmoil. It meant saying goodbye to friends of 12 years, breaking ties with loved ones, and abandoning the dreams I had nurtured of contributing positively to the future of my country. Social polarization, fueled by divisive rhetoric and policies, made it increasingly difficult to imagine a safe and inclusive future for myself and others in my community.

Canada stood out as a beacon of hope due to its global reputation for valuing diversity and safeguarding human rights. This became clearly evident when I settled into a society that not only tolerated but celebrated differences. Here I found a community where fear did not taint my daily existence – a radical change from the increasing hostility I had experienced in India.

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Dear Prime Minister Modi, the repercussions of your actions and words go far beyond economic metrics or international diplomacy.

On a personal level, you are responsible for the displacement of your own citizens, for the loss of their homes, dreams and contributions to our society. The divisive climate fostered by his leadership has forced many like me to seek refuge far from the land we love.

As I reflect on my journey, the decision to move to Canada, although difficult, is reaffirmed every time I hear about new cases of discrimination and violence against minorities in India.

This move was not just about seeking a better life, but about finding a safe space to continue living as I am, without fear.

My story is a call for awareness and change, urging leaders and communities around the world to value and protect the diversity that enriches us all.

Daud Arif is a Toronto-based communications professional with experience in the nonprofit and international development sectors.

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