Indian soldiers in Srinagar, Kashmir. Credit: New York Times
The Hindu nationalist policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have worsened anti-Muslim violence and caste oppression in India. Of particular concern are the situations in Kashmir and Assam , cow protection laws used as pretexts for lynching, and anti-Muslim citizenship laws.
In 2002, Hindu mobs killed over a thousand Muslims in genocidal massacres in the state of Gujarat, which was governed by the BJP under then-Chief Minister Modi. Some government officials were involved in the anti-Muslim riots, refusing to intervene and stop extrajudicial killings, and even supplying weapons and helping to plan attacks by Hindu mobs. Modi deliberately obstructed justice and refused to pursue perpetrators. In 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity in the Gujarat massacres by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India. In 2014, Modi was elected Prime Minister of India. He was re-elected in 2019.
“Cow Protection” laws have been used as pretexts for caste and anti-Muslim violence. Muslims and Dalits (“Untouchables”) have been lynched based on accusations of eating beef. Notwithstanding affirmative action authorized by the Indian Constitution, the caste system remains pervasive and caste-oppressed groups remain socially disadvantaged. Dalits, “scheduled castes and tribes” (listed in the Constitution) and other “backward classes” suffer public shaming, beatings, rapes, and lynchings for entering Hindu temples, and having inter-caste love relationships. Untouchability has been legally outlawed since 1949. But it is still an important way that menial labor (cleaning sewers, sweeping) in India is organized.
India’s 1949 constitution Article 370 allowed Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, to have its own laws. Even under this semi-autonomy, 600,000 federal security forces currently occupy Kashmir. They have killed thousands of Kashmiri militants. In 2011, mass graves with 2,730 bodies were discovered. The Indian Central Reserve Police use mass blinding as a military strategy. In summer 2016, Indian troops used 1.3 million shotgun shells in 32 days of protests, resulting in over 90 deaths, and 500 people suffering vision loss.
In August 2019, Prime Minister Modi rescinded Article 370 and Kashmir lost its autonomy. India deployed thousands of troops across Kashmir Valley, banned public meetings, shut down schools and colleges, and put two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir under house arrest. Internet services were suspended in Kashmir. Indian forces continue to occupy Kashmir under martial law, which gives troops complete impunity. Gang rapes by police and soldiers, disappearances, torture and killings by police are common. Kashmiri children have been detained in government jails, violating the U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child. Over 50,000 people have been killed in Kashmir from 1989 to 2019.
After his reelection in 2019, Modi’s Hindu nationalist government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It offers an accelerated pathway to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. But it excludes Muslim refugees. The CAA and National Register of Citizens are aimed at identifying and removing “illegal immigrants,” especially Bengali Muslims who fled into Assam to escape the 1971 Pakistani genocide in Bangladesh.
Refugees, tribal communities, and illiterate poor people often lack documents to prove their Indian citizenship. Two million people in Assam have been classified at deportable “foreigners.” Thousands have been imprisoned in new “detention centers.” The BJP has declared its intention to extend the National Register of Citizens throughout India. Opposition to the CAA has led to massive protests, including riots in New Delhi. Anti-Muslim pogroms in New Delhi in January 2020 resulted in hundreds of Muslim deaths, Muslim shops burnt, and Muslim cemeteries and mosques destroyed.
Genocide Watch considers the violent conflict in Kashmir, preparations to deport Bengali Muslims in Assam, anti-Muslim violence in north India, and continuing caste oppression all over India to be indicators of stages 6 (polarization), 7 (preparation), and 8 (persecution) in the Ten Stages of Genocide.
Genocide Watch recommends that the UN Human Rights Council appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate anti-Muslim laws and pogroms in Indian Kashmir and Assam. The UN Security Council should monitor and regularly discuss the conflict in Kashmir and the situation of refugees in Assam, India.