“How is it spelt? Could you spell it for me?” said Nargis Saifi, at the beginning of an awkward conversation about whether her husband Khalid Saifi believed in “Ghazwa-e-Hind,” a contested phrase used by a certain section of people to refer to a so-called ‘holy raid’ for Muslim domination over the Indian subcontinent.
Nargis isn’t the only one wondering suddenly what the word means.
“Umar is a non-believer. Everyone knows that,” said Sabiha Khanum, Umar Khalid’s mother, with an incredulous laugh. “How can he relate to something that is Islamic? This is not justified.”
A disclosure statement attributed to Saifi during the Delhi Police’s investigation of the Delhi riots says that he, a businessman, and Khalid, a political activist, are proponents of the controversial idea.
Disclosure statements are taken soon after an arrest, and do not have evidentiary value in a trial unless they lead to the discovery of new evidence. Defence lawyers in Delhi riot cases have contested the veracity of the statements attributed to their clients.
Rashid Kidwai, a political analyst and a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, wrote in 2019 that while there is little clarity on what ‘Ghazwa e Hind’ means, it has been invoked by a wide range of characters from Pakistani militants to Pakistan actor Veena Malik and, closer home, by news channel Times Now.
“Umar Khalid is ultra-Left. There is an open negation of religion and faith. Prima facie, it looks far-fetched,” Kidwai told HuffPost India over the phone. “The term is used rather recklessly, and as a convenient ploy to present certain people in a certain light.”
For the stunned family members of Khalid and Saifi, even talking about Ghazwa-e-Hind seems “beyond ridiculous”.
And yet, they are worried. At a time when the Indian internet is rife with disinformation and anti-Muslim sentiments, it may only take one irresponsible media report to snowball into countless WhatsApp forwards that...