ALIGARH, Uttar Pradesh —Afreen Fatima was 15-years-old when Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in 2014.
Modi’s victory barely registered with the teenager who was preoccupied with school, social media and basketball.
When Modi chose Hindutva firebrand Yogi Adityanath to be Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, three years later in 2017, Fatima was a student at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Women’s College, a voracious consumer of news, and gearing up for college politics.
Adityanath’s elevation stung.
“When I got to know that Yogi ji was going to be CM, my body was shivering with fear,” she said. ”I was afraid of what will happen to my state.”
Fatima was confounded when a Muslim student in her college, who hailed from Gorakhpur, told her that Adityanath was actually a “good” MP, and that she was happy about him becoming chief minister.
India’s Muslims were rudderless in an increasingly competitive political landscape, no longer dominated by the Congress Party, Fatima felt. Muslims, who constitute 13% of India’s population, needed a political movement of their own.
In a recent conversation with HuffPost India, the petite, fast talking, 20-year-old said that the “otherization” of Muslims had thwarted them from finding their political identity. Muslims, the student of linguistics added, have been made to feel like the “other” not just in the five years that the BJP has been in power, but since India gained its independence.
While sipping tea at a popular hangout in Aligarh, with Adele and Ellie Goulding songs playing in the background, Fatima said that she didn’t blame the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Congress for “everything that has gone wrong with Muslims in India.”