Police personnel at a riot-hit area in North East Delhi on 24 February. (Photo: Raj. K Raj/Hindustan Times)
Islamophobia is no longer a fringe sentiment in India. It has become a state-manufactured ideology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made Islamophobia central to its program for harassing India's 192 million Muslims and depriving them of their rights as Indian citizens. Dalits, placed at the bottom of India’s caste hierarchy, have also increasingly come under attack.
Modi rose to power by inciting Hindus with his time-tested politics of communal polarization. Beginning in 2014, Modi spent his first term as Prime Minister dehumanizing Muslims by passing laws preventing cow slaughter, restricting Muslim immigration, and purportedly countering Islamist terrorism. Modi's second term, beginning in 2019, has seen more brazen attempts by the BJP to turn India into a “Hindu Rashtra.”
Modi revoked the "Special Autonomous Status of India Administered Jammu and Kashmir" under Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution of India. In the predominantly Muslim state of Kashmir, India has positioned over 600,000 troops, who are arresting, torturing, raping, and killing Kashmiri citizens. Police arrests and forced disappearances are routine. Movement of people and freedom of the press are restricted. The government cuts off internet communications in Kashmir to stop news of atrocities from spreading.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to grant preference in acquiring citizenship based on religion. This act is coupled with a nationwide verification process to identify “illegal migrants” who have come to India since 1971. It is aimed at expulsion of millions of Muslim immigrants who fled to India during the Bangladesh civil war. It also threatens rights of millions of other Indian Muslims who have no papers to prove citizenship.
This discriminatory law was met with protests to which the government responded with brute force—arresting, beating, and killing protestors. Police officers and vigilante Hindu mobs led by RSS thugs attacked Muslims in North East Delhi, killing more than 30 Muslims. Rather than punish the perpetrators, the police have filed cases against the victims, naming Muslim students and activists as inciters of the violence.
The latest legislative action against Muslims are the so-called anti-conversion laws. The laws are aimed at the mythical “Love Jihad,” an Islamophobic conspiracy theory claiming that Muslim men lure Hindu women into love relationships and then convince them to convert to Islam. Interfaith couples live in fear of censure from their families and Hindu nationalist groups. Now they can be arrested and tried in India's courts.
Dalits face harassment and physical torture at the hands of upper castes. Dalit men and women are beaten up and killed for innocuous actions such as sporting moustaches, hiring out wedding celebrations, and sitting on chairs. Police often refuse to file cases against perpetrators from upper castes.
Genocide Watch recognizes the BJP government's state-sponsored attack on the Muslim and Dalit community as Stage 6: Polarization, Stage 7: Preparation, and Stage 8: Persecution. Modi’s statements at Aligarh Muslim University perversely claiming that his new laws are intended to "uplift the Muslim community" demonstrate Stage 10: Denial.
Genocide Watch recommends:
· The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues should investigate India's discrimination against Muslims and report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
· The Indian Supreme Court should appoint an Independent Commission to investigate the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2020.
· Indian Army and police who committed crimes in Kashmir should be prosecuted.
· Prime Minister Modi should order BJP leaders to stop stoking communal violence.
· International universities should stand in solidarity with Indian academic institutions.