This month has been a roller coaster for anyone watching the human rights situation in India. While the rightwing Hindutva party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been in power in India since 2014, their foot soldiers have been busy gradually increasing their rhetoric to promote making India a Hindu Rashtra, that is, a Hindu nation where non-Hindus would become second class citizens, as originally conceived by the founders of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which means National Volunteer Organization).
The RSS, founded in 1925, has a current membership of close to 6 million. There are so many issues related to the Hindutva rightwing groups, but a brief update will be presented in this short article.
Preventing Muslims from Performing Prayers
Gurgaon is a town in the state of Haryana, a bit over 19 miles from Delhi. There are not enough masajid in Gurgaon to accommodate all the Muslims for prayer and, as the immigrant Muslim population has increased over the years, Muslim leaders made arrangements with local authorities for Muslims to offer Friday prayers in public parks and open spaces. Yet rightwing groups have taken the law into their own hands and have often tried to forcibly prevent Muslims from offering their Friday prayers. One would expect in any country governed by the rule of law to rein in this intimidation, clearly illegal and discriminatory. But what we are seeing is that elected officials are giving in to the anti-Muslim rhetoric, signaling that governments themselves are either powerless to intervene, or worse, complicit in what the gangs on the streets are doing.
The Wire, an Indian media source, writes, “Until last Friday, Muslims would gather on this spot in the afternoon to offer their customary juma namaz. From today, it ceases to be a space for them. They have been pushed out. From here and from 15 other spots in Gurgaon… This is about 2021. If you start counting from 2017, Muslims have been barred from nearly 70 spots.”
One would have hoped that the police and authorities would assert themselves to prevent these discriminatory actions, arrest offenders, and subject them to the criminal justice system. But instead, the chief minister of Haryana, the Indian state in question, M.L. Khattar, caved into the demands of these law breakers, and declared that no prayer in public will be tolerated. While these types of activity by rightwing activists might be dismissed as the provocations and harassments of Hindu extremists, the reality is that this anti-Muslim attitude is common and widespread. A speaker at an event, attended by at least one BJP official, called for genocide of Muslims. The event was attended by more than 500 Hindu religious monks and leaders. The BJP, Prime Minister Modi’s party, has consistently denied wanting to transform India from being a secular, pluralistic nation into a Hindu nation. Yet, critics accuse them of ignoring or even inciting discrimination and persecution of Muslims and other minorities.
Annapurna Bharti, secretary of Hindu Mahasabha, a political party, spoke at the event. He stated, “Nothing is possible without weapons. If you want to eliminate their population then kill them. Be ready to kill and be ready to go to jail. Even if 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs [2 million] of them [Muslims], then we will be victorious, and go to jail… Like [Nathuram] Godse, I am ready to be maligned, but I will pick up arms to defend my Hindutva from every demon who is a threat to my religion.”
The authorities, as usual, have been slow taking any action against these Hindutva extremists. One of them even boasted that the police “will be on our side.” Under tremendous international pressure, the government and the police finally acted, but only a few have been charged. One of those arrested in mid-January, Yati Narsinghanand, was initially charged with misogynistic speech. The authorities stated that his arrest was for “derogatory comments against women, not the Haridwar hate speech case right now.” They added, “He has been issued a notice in that case so far. He will be remanded for the hate speech case too; the procedure is on. We will include the hate speech case details also in the remand application.”
Dividing People Along Religious Lines
Fast forward a few weeks and we see another disturbing trend. The election commission of India announced state assembly [similar to state legislatures in the U.S.] elections in several states in India. Uttar Paradesh, with a population of more than 200 million, is one of them and is politically most significant. The current government in that state is run by BJP, with Yogi Adityanath as its chief minister. He is known to be an open Islamophobe and doesn’t hide his contempt for Muslims. It is not just his rhetoric; he has pursued anti-Muslim policies during his first term. He openly cites as one of his main achievements that of having put Muslims in their place.
The main method BJP uses to win elections is to divide the electorate along religious lines and thus gain Hindu votes. However, the issue is not limited to elections anymore. It is has now become clear that the current situation is about the very survival of Muslims in India in the coming times. Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch (GW), testified in January before the U.S. Congress, warning about the possibility of genocide in India. He stated that now with Narenda Modi as prime minister of India, “under his BJP’s policies, he has used anti-Muslim, Islamophobic rhetoric, in fact, to build his political base.” He noted that GW has been speaking out, warning of “the threat of genocide in India since 2002.” Mr. Stanton stated that the U.S. government and other nations can take meaningful steps to preempt any such event from happening.
The Indian government must wake up and save India from the brink. Subjugation, expulsion, or even extermination of minorities may be the main agenda of the Hindutva movement, but the Indian government is in a position to counter and oppose that agenda. Otherwise, India will descend into further crisis and international disrepute. Muslims and other minorities in India must be protected and afforded their full rights. We make du’a to Allah SWT that all decent people stand firm in support of those around the world who are subject to discrimination or persecution and push their governments to take action to prevent a potential genocide in India.