First published in 2004, this Genocide Warning has proven to be highly predictive of events since then. It has been updated to 2020.
GENOCIDE WATCH: INDIA – 2004, updated to 2020
Anti-Muslim massacres in Gujarat killed over 1000 Muslims in 2002. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi did nothing to stop them. Credit: Newsclick.in
When India became independent in 1947, its founders adopted a secular constitution for a pluralistic society. Gandhi and Nehru’s vision of India’s multi-cultural future guided the Congress Party which ruled India for most of its first four decades. Pakistan, on the other hand, was founded as a homeland for Muslims. Until the Pakistani Army’s genocide in East Pakistan (Bangla Desh) in 1971, Pakistan united two territories separated by a thousand miles, based solely on their common religion. Today, there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan – 200 million – twelve percent of India’s population of over a billion. Only Indonesia has more Muslim citizens.
Mahatma Gandhi was heartbroken at the partition of India and separation of Pakistan, and at the genocidal massacres of 1947. Some of his most famous fasts were to stop the killings. But Gandhi’s most virulent enemies were not separatist Muslims. They were the Hindu extremists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.) (National Volunteers Association), who advocated creation of a militant Hindu state. On January 30, 1948, one of these extremists murdered Gandhi while he was on his way to prayer. At his trial, the murderer claimed that Gandhi’s “consistent pandering to Muslims” had left him with no choice. He went to the gallows singing to “the Motherland, the land of the Hindus.”
Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, supreme leader of the R.S.S. until 1973, expressed the tenets of Hindutva, the Hindu extremist ideology, in his manifesto “We, or Our Nationhood Defined.” In it he said that Hindus could “profit” from the example of the Nazis, who had manifested “race pride at its highest” by purging Germany of the Jews. He declared Muslims and Christians in India to be “invaders.”
Leaders of the R.S.S. have now taken over India. The Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) (Indian People’s Party), the R.S.S. political wing, has dominated the coalition government in New Delhi since 1998. Both Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, and his Deputy and Home Minister, Amit Shah, belong to the R.S.S.
In 1999, one of the government’s chief advisors, K.S. Sudarshan, then the leader of the R.S.S., said that an epic war has begun between divine and demonic powers for world supremacy. He predicted that the ultimate victors would be Hindu nationalists. The R.S.S. now controls the biggest Indian political party (the B.J.P.), as well as schools, trade unions, cultural societies, and religious groups all over India. It runs camps of the Bajrang Dal, where young Hindu boys are taught the ideology of Hindutva and where hatred and fear of Muslims are openly advocated. These camps receive large financial contributions from Indians abroad, especially though the India Development and Relief Fund.
Most cultures create places of worship, where they venerate their gods or other sacred symbols. Places where events in the lives of sacred heroes occurred become venerated. Often churches, temples, or mosques are built over them, culturally containing them.
These structures are symbolic claims to ownership of the sacred places. Perhaps the most famous such places are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the great Haram mosque enclosing the Kaaba in Mecca. Control of such sacred centers is a vital objective in many religions. The Christian Crusades to re-capture Jerusalem showed that men of faith will even commit genocide to re-take lost ownership over such centers. They are especially likely to do so when they feel that their own culture is under siege, as Christian Europe was from Muslims, and as Hindus feel they are from Muslim and Christian civilizations.
In 1989, the R.S.S. and B.J.P., led by L.K. Advani, started a campaign to build a Hindu temple in the north Indian town of Ayodhya over what they believe was the birthplace of the god Rama. There was only one problem. A Muslim mosque, the Babri Masjid, already occupied the site, and had since the 16th century. The R.S.S. claimed that the Mogul emperor, Babur, destroyed an ancient Hindu temple to build the mosque. He may well have done so, since Mogul emperors destroyed thousands of Hindu temples during their conquest of north India, often replacing them with mosques.
In December 1992, B.J.P. leaders organized a mob of Hindus that demolished the Babri Masjid, while shouting “Death to Muslims.” At least 1,700 people, most of them Muslim, were murdered in the “riots” that followed. But these communal “riots” were actually organized genocidal massacres, that intentionally targeted victims because of their religious identity. In March 1993, Muslim terrorists retaliated with simultaneous bombings that killed over 300 civilians.
Destruction of the Babri Masjid (Mosque) in Ayodhya, 6 December 1992. "Communal riots" that followed killed over 1700 Muslims. Credit: Deccanherald.com
The R.S.S. controls the World Hindu Council, which has sponsored the carving of foundations and columns for a Hindu temple on the site of the Babri Masjid. Regularly, trainloads of Hindu militants descend on Ayodhya to demand that construction commence. Thus far they have been blocked by court order.
On February 27, 2002, a Muslim mob stoned a train loaded with World Hindu Council activists returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya. A train car burst into flames and 59 people, mostly women and children, burned to death. Who set the fire remains a matter of dispute. What is clear is that it became the signal for organized genocidal massacres of Gujarati Muslims that took over 1000 lives.
The Independent Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal, led by former Chief Justice Krishna Iyer investigated the mass murders. It noted that the killers used computer printouts of addresses occupied by Muslims to identify their targets. Police officers stood by while thousands of Hindus rampaged through Muslim enclaves, raping, shooting, stabbing, looting, and burning at least 124 Muslims alive. The killers clearly expressed their genocidal intent in their slogans: "Kill them all, destroy their society." "Finish off all Muslims; our people were not spared by them, don't have mercy." Police officials said that B.J.P. party officials instigated the mobs. “This was not a riot,” said one senior police official. “It was a state-sponsored pogrom.”
Campaigning on hate and fear, the B.J.P. won a landslide election in Gujurat in December 2002. The state’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was for many years an R.S.S. militant. Modi and the B.J.P. won another landslide victory nationwide in 2014 and 2019 and Modi became Prime Minister of India. Amit Shah represents Gujarat in the national Parliament and is Home Minister. Gujarat, the home state of Mohandas Gandhi, remains under the control of his enemies.
India has all of the preparatory stages for more genocidal massacres. It remains classified into Muslim and Hindu, symbolized by name, residence, and circumcision. The new Citizenship Bill openly discriminates against Muslim immigrants. R.S.S. extremists refer to Muslims as dehumanized outsiders, “invaders.” The Home Minister, Amit Shah, has repeatedly referred to Muslims as "termites." The R.S.S. is highly organized. Indian society is polarized by religious identity. Preparation for more massacres has already begun. Muslims are persecuted in many parts of India. Much Muslim property has been expropriated or destroyed, and Muslims have been displaced into enclaves. Denial of its discriminatory intent hides the B.J.P.'s anti-Muslim agenda. A climate of impunity reigns, in which eyewitnesses to lynchings of Muslims including murders of their own families have been terrorized into recanting testimony and the killers have been acquitted.
The Archeological Survey of India has found evidence that a structure resembling an ancient Hindu temple may lie under the ruins of the mosque in Ayodhya. Hindu nationalists say the findings prove that a Hindu temple should be built on the site. The Supreme Court of India has now ruled that a Hindu temple may be built where the Babri Masjid mosque once stood. The R.S.S. also wants Hindu temples to replace structures in Varanasi and Mathura.
There are strong counter-forces to genocide in India, as well. Many Indians reject the Hindutva fanaticism of the R.S.S. and the B.J.P. India has an independent judiciary that for over twenty years blocked the construction of the Ayodhya temple. India’s independent press fearlessly exposed the genocidal nature of the Gujurat massacres. But the press has become more subdued as Modi's popularaity has risen. A recent study of Indian cities shows that a high degree of interaction across religious lines based on business and membership in voluntary associations correlates with a low level of inter-communal violence. It is evidence that secular inter-action prevents massacres. Demonstrations against the new Citizenship Bill have swept India.
International and domestic pressure on the Indian government has also borne some results. Subjected to severe domestic criticism following the Gujarat massacres, B.J.P. leaders denounced the killings, and forced Narendra Modi to institute reforms in the Gujarati police. Behind the scenes, diplomats from many countries have urged Prime Minister Modi to drop his anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistani rhetoric. But there has been little direct public criticism from any foreign official of the religious intolerance of the R.S.S. and B.J.P., with the exception of ex-President Clinton and the government of Finland. Now President Trump has received Modi in the White House and considers him a fellow nationalist.
In Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, the Muslims of the Juhapura enclave refer to the road that divides them from Hindus as the “border.” It ends in a green field, called Unity Ground, where Hindus and Muslims used to play cricket together.
It was the dream of Mohandas Gandhi that the sacred centers of India would be open to people of all faiths; that the borders that divide them would end in a unity ground. May Gandhi’s dream again become India’s.