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Division, Denial, and Genocide

Credit: Express Tribune

Dr. Gregory Stanton, Founding President of Genocide Watch, discusses how Modi’s India is treading a dangerous path towards mass persecution

The Express-Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)

February 21, 2021

When the history of genocide is finally written, it often seems like it manifested out of thin air. Like the concept of temporary insanity in all but settled criminal cases, popular imagination conjures up images of fleeting madness on a national scale.

But genocide, like all developments in history, is a gradual process. Its foundations are laid brick by brick by generations of ideologues until the divide between ‘us and them’ reaches fever pitch. Hidden by the sands of time are the tales of the politics of division, and of mass deception and denial across generations that cultivate the atmosphere for reprehensible atrocities.

In 1996, on the heels of genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, the founder and president of the non-governmental organisation, Genocide Watch, Dr Gregory H Stanton outlined the ‘eight stages of genocide’ in a briefing paper he authored. “Genocide is a process that develops in eight stages that are predictable, but not inexorable,” he wrote at the time. “It is not a linear process, but logically the later stages must be preceded by the earlier stages. Logically prior stages continue to operate,” he elaborated. But much more importantly, he stressed that “at each stage, preventive measures can stop it.”

By 2012, Dr Stanton revised the model by identifying two more stages in the process. The new 10-stage framework now reads as follows: Classification, Symbolisation, Discrimination, Dehumanisation, Organisation, Polarisation, Preparation, Persecution, Extermination and Denial.

In the first, communities are divided along lines of ‘us and them’, with any respect stripped from the differences that supposedly characterise the latter. In the second, the ‘other’ is crystallised through the use of symbols and labels. In the third stage, Discrimination, the dominant group uses laws, customs and political powers to deny other groups’ their rights. The fourth, Dehumanisation, sees the dominant community equate other groups to vermin, animals, insects or diseases.

The fifth stage sees the state organise hatred and violence towards non-dominant groups using means like mobs, militias or even, special military or paramilitary units. The sixth sees propaganda reach fever pitch, with ideologues intimidating moderates into silence or support. The seventh lays the groundwork for genocide, as leaders from the dominant group plan a ‘final solution’ to the ‘question’ of a targeted group. In the eighth, victims are identified on ethno-religious grounds and the targeted group is confined to ghettos or concentration camps, where it may be deliberately deprived of resources.

The ninth stage sees the actual mass killing of members of a targeted group. Finally, the tenth stage sees the perpetrators of genocide and members the dominant group deny the crime ever took place. Unless driven from power by force and brought before a tribunal, the perpetrators may then live in impunity. It is important to note that these 10 stages are not linear and can often overlap and occur simultaneously.

The Express Tribune earlier spoke to Dr Stanton regarding the Narendra Modi regime’s systemic heavy-handed treatment of the people of Kashmir (Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). At the time, the American scholar issued a stark warning: ““We believe that the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir have been an extreme case of persecution and could very well lead to genocide.”

Dr Stanton stressed that at present the valley is suffering from a ‘pre-genocidal’ situation and that many of the early stages of the genocide model could very clearly be identified.

What follows is a transcript of the complete conversation The Express Tribune had with Dr Stanton in which he articulated his apprehensions for both the people of IIOJK and Muslims in India along with why he thinks the concept of a ‘global community’ is a myth when it comes to state-sponsored atrocities.

ET: How would you describe the current situation in IIOJK? What stage would you assign to the region?

GS: We believe Kashmir right now is at stage eight, which is persecution. It hasn’t quite reached the level of genocide, but certainly, it is at stage eight.

Kashmir was supposed to be autonomous under Article 370 of the [Indian] Constitution and Prime Minister Modi suspended it. In addition to that, Modi and the Indian government arrested a lot of the local leaders and many are still in jail. The state is under lockdown. The Internet was cut off. It was subjected to a curfew so draconian that one couldn’t even go out. In short it became a police state.

We believe that the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir have been an extreme case of persecution and could very well lead to genocide. We have documented proof that at least 50,000 people have died since 1989. You could say that is already genocide. Article 2B of the Genocide Convention prohibits serious mental and bodily harm upon the members of a group and Article 2C that deals with imposing conditions of life on members of a group that are calculated to bring about the destruction of that group.

You can say that some of the conditions of life imposed on Kashmiri Muslims have reached that level.

It hasn’t reached the level of Rwanda or Cambodia, and some of the other classic genocide cases. So, we call it persecution. But our model is a process model. We don’t treat genocide as an event.

The so-called early stages are already present in Kashmir. Very clearly Muslims are being classified versus Hindus. The dehumanisation stage has also been present and the Modi government has been calling Muslims parasites, terrorists and a lot of other names for some time now. It is also clearly organised. You have the whole Indian army up there in Kashmir – 600,000 troops for a small area – which is absurd.

The next stage, which is polarisation, is also very clear. Kashmiri Muslims have been treated as the other. Then we have the preparation stage and the Indian government and the army have plans to crush a possible uprising in Kashmir.

So many of the early stages of genocide are already present. We don’t wait until it is a full out mass killing campaign. We stress that there are early warning signs of genocide now and that’s what we believe is the situation in Kashmir.

ET: What does a regime achieve by the intentional destruction of a group? What is the Indian government trying to achieve in the case of IIOJK by targeting an indigenous ethnic group?

GS: They achieve the annihilation of the opposition. If there is an ethnic group that is opposed to the government, they see wiping them out as one way to deal with the problem. The group that is targeted is often persecuted for mythical or fictional reasons made up by the regime targeting it. Jews, for instance, were not a threat to Germany. Many Jews in Germany identified themselves as Germans and fought for Germany in World War I. It was Hitler who came up with the idea that they were a threat.

Hitler was a paranoid sociopath. He was a narcissist and mentally ill person who in some ways is very similar to someone we recently defeated as president.

This aspect, where a leader tells a big lie again and again – that a small group is a threat – can work to draw in popular support. Unfortunately, that is the case in India, where Muslims are portrayed as the enemy of the nation, which is nonsense. It is a fiction made up by the Bharatiya Janata Party that Muslims are traitors somehow.

[As for Kashmir], by the intentional destruction of Kashmiri Muslims, the Indian government is trying to cement into place India's ownership of the valley.

I would largely blame Narendra Modi and the BJP for the situation in Kashmir right now. It’s not just him alone; he has a whole group of BJP leaders who are in some cases even more extreme than he is. The Indian home minister for instance. Modi and the BJP have used the anti-Muslim rhetoric to marshal political support for themselves, just the way Donald Trump did. So, they’re the ones to be blamed for it. They passed the Citizenship Amendment Act in India, which is clearly anti-Muslim. When they pass such exclusionary legislation, world leaders should raise hell about it.

ET: What’s next for the people of IIOJK?

GS: I wish I had the answer. I don’t know what’s next for them. It’s been one of those issues that has been there since 1948. And if it has been there for so long, you wonder how long it will take to resolve such a crisis. One thing I would hope for would be a realisation that the situation in Kashmir needs to be resolved without name calling back and forth. In other words, with real diplomacy.

I actually think that Pakistan currently has a leader who is capable of that. I don’t think India does. So right now, I don’t think that diplomacy is likely to happen. One thing I’ve learned over many years of work is that violent revolutions won’t work. They always make human rights worse.

ET: What are your fears for the Muslims of India? At present, the Indian regime has been using politics of ‘us versus them’ very effectively. Is that a purely ‘Hindu versus Muslim’ issue?

GS: My fears are that if Modi continues to use this kind of exclusionary language and passes more exclusionary laws then Muslims are going to be more and more discriminated against and persecuted. Not just in Kashmir and Assam, but in other parts of India.

I am very worried. A lot of people think Hitler's Nazis must have been a small minority. That’s wrong, as Hitler was eventually supported by a majority of Germans. People should never forget that. By the time he was finished with the total reorganisation of German society, his support was very close to unanimous and you couldn’t even express opposition.

It takes hundreds of thousands of people to carry out genocide. If Modi is able to whip India into a froth of hatred, it is possible and I really do fear for the Muslims in the country.

There is also persecution of Christians and all other minorities in India as well. Let’s face it. Hinduism is a caste-based religion. So, these kinds of exclusionary laws are very harmful for lower caste Hindus as well who are already treated as pariahs.

ET: The exclusionary tactics of the Hindutva campaign have Modi’s full support. What will it take to stop that campaign? Have you had a chance to speak with the Indian leadership?

GS: I don’t have much hope for Modi because he has advocated this doctrine throughout his political career. At least 2,000 Muslims were killed during anti-Muslim riots when he was chief minister of Gujarat. There is evidence that Modi instructed the police to stand down and not stop these riots. There was a commission that concluded he was actually complicit. He was so stunned that he handpicked another commission that then cleared him.

Modi’s support for Hindutva has been very successful for him as he went on to become Prime Minister of India. So I don’t have much hope of converting him. But his support is waning, particularly among young people in India. Increasingly we are seeing in India that the young people who are the engine of progress are not buying into this religious sectarianism.

As for me personally, I haven’t had a chance to communicate with the present Indian leadership. I lived in India in 1978 and 1979. I was affiliated with the Indian Law Institute.

ET: What are the long-term consequences of Modi’s policies?

GS: They are disastrous if they are followed out. His policies of divisionism are going to continue to fracture Indian society. When you have a divided society where one group hates the other, a nation becomes unproductive and it’s riven by hatred and animosity that should not even exist. It is very harmful for India’s political and economic future. I hope there are opponents of such policies who will throw Modi out of power.

ET: Why is the international community not discussing Kashmir actively? How would you rate the response of Western democracies and what will it take to attract the attention of the global leadership?

GS: The response has been very weak. I worked at the US Department of State under former president Bill Clinton and I saw how weak our foreign policy is on genocide. I served during the Rwandan genocide and our lawyers wouldn’t even call it genocide, saying the US might have to do something to stop it if they did. That’s actually in a cable I read. We had this indifference towards that genocide. Susan Rice who later became the national security adviser was one of the four people in the Peacekeeping Core Group who recommended that all UN troops be withdrawn from Rwanda. We voted to do that. The US response to the Rwandan genocide was so pathetically weak, as was that of the UK and France. In fact, France might have even helped the perpetrators.

In order to attract global attention to Kashmir, you would need mass killings of the level we saw in Rwanda. And if they end up doing this, they will keep it secret because that would elicit a huge reaction by the global community.

It’s just shameful, I don’t think the global community exists. I think it is a mythical beast that exists somewhere out there. The truth is that we are still a world divided in nation states and a lot of policies that are made by these states are for their own interests. They are not human rights oriented.

So, what is going to be important for most nation states is going to be trade with India. Genocide does not occur to them as a cause for concern in Kashmir.

ET: How do you view the US role in preventing genocide in Kashmir and other parts of the world?

GS: I think our main role should be to openly support movements for democracy, against racism and division and religious prejudice in other countries. I think the real job of working against genocide will come from within those countries at risk of genocide.

It not something the US can arrogantly impose on others. How can we do so when we have committed so much genocide and racial discrimination at home?

That said, I’m afraid the Kashmir issue will stay on the back burner and the US would like to get along with the Modi government. I don’t see a strong foreign policy coming out of the Biden administration.

Of course, former president Trump found a real comrade in Modi since they have a lot of similar characteristics. They are both essentially authoritarian leaders.

ET: What’s the long-term cost of denying the existence of the Kashmir issue?

GS: Denial hurts everybody, not just the victim group. If you continue to deny the persecution of a group, you will continue the persecution. There is nothing to stop it. Denial certainly does not help the denier because they cannot have an honest relationship with those who are suffering.

In India, we have a whole construct of education that is in denial about how Hindu and Muslim relations have been so tense over so many centuries. Meanwhile, Washington’s inaction in Kashmir hurts its commitment to human rights.

ET: What would you advise policy makers in Kashmir to prevent a possible genocide?

GS: We’ve got some very good policy makers right now. Samantha Power will head USAID and she has a very strong stance against genocide.

I would make it part of our policy that we need to communicate to Modi that we will not tolerate the kind of intolerance that he is preaching if we are going to have a good economic relationship with India.

So, let’s make this a centerpiece of American relationship with India. In other words, use economic persuasion to say, "Look if you would like us to give India preference over China as a producer of goods for the US you will have to stop this anti-Muslim hate campaign." So that should be a policy of our government.

ET: How does India heal?

GS: Hindus who search for truth like Gandhi will find ways to overcome this hatred that Modi and his party are trying to inflict upon India. India today is certainly not Gandhi’s India. I’m not sure if it ever was. Even when he was leading, there was so much opposition to him that it resulted in his murder. And he was murdered by a member of the RSS. The BJP is nothing but the RSS’s political wing. So, the hatred was already there even at the beginning of India’s history.

I do believe there are many followers of Gandhi in India but not enough to turn the tide at this point. But perhaps India can combine those people with those who feel India’s economic future cannot be built upon a sectarian society. If you combine the economic realists with the spiritually committed, I think Modi can be defeated.

ET: If you had the chance to speak with Prime Minister Modi, what would your message be?

GS: I would appeal to him. I don’t know how much luck I would have. But I would appeal to him to recognise the history that India has had of a diverse and tolerant society. I am sure he wouldn’t give any thought to that.

ET: Is the age of human rights over?

GS: No, it is just beginning. The age of human rights began long ago. It began with Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. In modern times, it began after World War II, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention. Since then, we have failed to enforce many of these human rights.

We need to look at how we can restructure our institutions in a way that they protect human rights rather than threatening human rights. And that would mean rethinking the concept of nation states. It is that big. So when I see institutions like the European Union, which is a transnational institution that has its own Court of Human Rights, I still have faith that the future is ahead of us.

Copyright © 2021 The Express Tribune


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