—Gregory Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch group, sounds alarm on violence against Muslims in India
Foreign Desk Report
WASHINGTON: India has entered into a very critical phase of communal strife after the Hindu zealots led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) inspired Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders openly called for genocide of the Muslims and persecution of other minorities through tacit extreme ploys.
Indian and foreign media reports are rife with repeated incidents of lynching of Muslims and Dalits, destruction of Churches, trolling of scholars, detention of activists, the harassment of movie stars, persecution of the minorities, the erosion of fundamental rights, distortion of history, the usurpation of social media by hate speech and fake news and propaganda and encouragement of vigilantism.
The same alarming situation also found words in a Congressional briefing of President of Genocide Watch, Dr Gregroy Stanton, few days back, who had warned that something similar to the inhumane Rwandan genocide could happen in India if stern action was not taken by the government of India.
During a briefing in Washington, DC, he also referred to the event of ‘Dharam Sansad’ organized in Haridwar, where members of Hindu-right wing members made genocide calls against Muslims.
Dr Stanton bitterly criticized Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his indifferent attitude. “As the leader of India, he has an obligation to denounce this genocidal speech. Yet, Narendra Modi has not spoken against it,” foreign media quoted the president of watchdog as saying.
According to experts, the reason extremist groups in India are on the rise, is clear; they have impunity and support from Modi’s led government.
Contrary to it, “India prohibits hate speech under several sections of its penal code, including a section which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious acts” intended to insult religious beliefs,” they added.
According to Human Rights Watch in its latest World Report 2022 unveiled on Jan 13, said that Indian authorities had intensified their crackdown on activists, journalists, and other critics of the government using politically motivated prosecutions in 2021.
The clampdown on dissent was facilitated by the draconian counterterrorism law, tax raids, foreign funding regulations, and charges of financial irregularities.
The report highlighted that attacks against religious minorities were carried out with impunity under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Hindu nationalist government. BJP supporters engaged in mob attacks or threatened violence, while several states adopted laws and policies to target minority communities, particularly Christians, Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis.
“The Indian authorities have given up any appearance of tolerating dissent and are using the machinery of the state to silence critics,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“At the same time, the BJP government has created an atmosphere in which minorities feel unsafe, at risk of assault by ruling party supporters.”
As per media reports including CNN, Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch, and 17 other human rights organisations in the US had also raised similar concerns at the plight of Muslims in India during the Congressional briefing.
Those experts spoke about how India was likely to witness mass violence and massacres of Muslims if the situation worsened.
The Human Rights Watch report said that many of the alleged murders went unpunished in part due to delayed police investigations and “rhetoric” from ruling party politicians, which certainly had incited mob violence.
At an event organised by Yati Narasinghanand, the priest of Dasna temple in Ghaziabad, targeted Muslims and urged Hindus to take up weapons against them. “Swords look good on stage only. This battle will be won by those with better weapons,” Indian media quoted him as saying.
Later, another event in continuation of Hardiwar was organised and hosted by the Delhi section of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, at the Banarasidas Chandiwala Auditorium.
The Hindu Yuva Vahini described itself as a “fierce cultural and social organisation dedicated to Hindutva and nationalism.”
Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and Bharatiya Janata Party leader, is its chief patron and founder.
The organization had a record of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence in Uttar Pradesh.
According to CNN, Aljazeera and Indian media reports, during the three-day events, the Hindu right-wing members including Sadhvi Annapurna Maa, Dharamdas Maharaj, Anand Swaroop Maharaj, Swami Sagar Sindhuraj, Swami Prabodanand Giri, Swami Premanand Maharaj, BJP member, Ashwini Upadhyay, and the party’s Mahila Morcha member, Udita Tyagi, called for a Hindu Raj and passionately advocated for violence against Muslims.
In 2018, India’s current Home Minister Amit Shah was quoted by the Indian media as saying that Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers from Bangladesh were “termites” and promised to rid the nation of them.
In 2015, Sadhvi Deva Thakur, then a senior member of the Hindu Mahasabha group, caused widespread controversy when she told reporters Muslims and Christians should undergo forced sterilization to control their population growth.
Similarly various Hindu right-wing members including the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and journalists also called for genocide against Muslims and asked Hindus to buy weapons to unleash a Muslim genocide.
One of the members, Sadhvi Annapurna Maa was seen bragging “Nothing is possible without weapons and we have to carry knife or sword to kill them if you want to eliminate the population kill Muslims. If 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakh Muslims, then we will win and make India a Hindu Rashtra. Be ready to kill and go to jail”.
International political observers said that the Indian government was allowing hate speech and calls for violence, and its silence over the rising specter was underscored by the meekness of the political opposition.
The silence of Modi and his inability to condemn the open calls for mass genocide made during the right-wing Hindu gatherings could be interpreted by his most-extreme supporters as a tacit signal of protection, they added.
US intelligence report in 2019 gad warned that parliamentary elections in India increase the possibility of communal violence if Modi’s BJP “stresses Hindu nationalist themes.”
It added that state leaders “might view a Hindu-nationalist campaign as a signal to incite low-level violence to animate their supporters.”
Michael Kugelman, from the Wilson Center, had hit out at the Indian government for its silence.
“Not a peep, much less a condemnation, from the gov’t. Sad truth is that this deafening silence isn’t the least bit surprising”.
According to Human Rights activist and lawyer Vrinda Grover, any group inciting violence was barred under Indian law.
“Police, states and the government are responsible to ensure (inciting violence) doesn’t happen”. “But the state, through its inaction, is actually permitting these groups to function, while endangering Muslims who are the targets.”