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Spike in Violent Attacks against India’s Muslim Minority Concern Rights Groups

Some analysts believe that BJP is only trying to win elections by appealing to its anti-Muslim base and is not at war with Muslims

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violent attacks, rights group
Kareeman Bano holds a photograph of her son-in-law Rakbar Khan, who was killed by a mob on suspicion of cattle smuggling, in Kolgaon village, India, July 24, 2018. Mob attacks on minority groups have occurred since the Hindu nationalist BJP swept elections in 2014. VOA

The spike in violent attacks against India’s Muslim minority has raised concerns among rights groups, which are urging the government to take more decisive measures to protect the country’s minorities.

With an uptick in hate crimes against Muslims, India’s second-largest religious group, many rights activists are alarmed that intolerance toward minority groups is on the rise in the Hindu-majority country.

“There is growing insecurity and fear among minority groups in India, especially Muslims and Dalits,” said Jayshree Bajoria, a research consultant with Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“The government has failed to prevent or credibly investigate growing mob attacks on religious minorities or marginalized communities, often carried out by groups claiming to support the government,” she told VOA.

violent attacks, rights group
Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The right-wing group gathered thousands of supporters in the Indian capital to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked and demolished in 1992. VOA

Analysts: BJP encourages violence

Analysts charge that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, has encouraged this trend by publicly supporting attackers against minorities.

BJP leaders have often “made inflammatory speeches against minority communities and promoted Hindu supremacy and ultranationalism, which has encouraged further violence,” Bajoria said.

The U.N has expressed concern about the targeting of minorities in India and has warned Indian officials of the consequences of their “divisive policies.”

“We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities, in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis,” Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. human rights chief, said in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

Series of attacks

In recent months, rights groups have reported incidents of mob attacks, killings and sectarian violence against Indian Muslims.

In April, a 34-year-old Muslim man in Delhi’s Tihar jail was brutally beaten before a jail official reportedly engraved a Hindu sign on his back.

In March, a Hindu mob carrying wooden sticks and stones invaded a Muslim family’s house in New Delhi. The mob accused the family of playing cricket instead of celebrating Holi, a popular Hindu festival.

The family was reportedly told to “go to Pakistan” if they wished to play cricket.

Muslims, who make up about 14 percent of country’s population, say they have long been marginalized, targeted and discriminated against.

But recent violent attacks against Muslims have further raised fears among them, they say.

“I was born here and grew up on the roads in Delhi, and never felt as insecure as I feel now,” Tameez Ud Din, an alias used by a Muslim engineer from New Delhi, told VOA.

“The adoption of Hindutva ideology by the current government is to be blamed for the rise in attacks. We [Muslims] are killed in the name of cow protection and the attackers get political protection. I don’t feel safe anymore.” Ud Din said.

violent attacks, muslim minority
Thousands of citizens gathered in central Delhi to protest attacks by mobs and cow vigilante groups on Muslims and lower caste Hindus, June 28, 2017. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Cow vigilantism

Muslims frequently become victims of lynchings and other killings over transporting cattle, or allegedly selling, carrying, consuming or slaughtering cows, rights groups said.

Cows are viewed as sacred in Hinduism and it is illegal to sell or slaughter them in many Indian states.

A recent HRW report said “at least 44 people, including 36 Muslims,” were killed in cow-related violence from 2015 to 2018.

Last month, a video went viral on social media in which a 68-year-old Muslim man, Shaukat Ali, was seen surrounded by a Hindu mob who abused him, accused him of selling beef and later forced him to eat pork, which is strictly forbidden in Islam.

“Shaukat Ali was forced to eat pork. Those who were beating Ali knew that … nobody will face any consequence” under the BJP government, Asaduddin Owaisi, a prominent Muslim politician from Telangana state, told reporters after the incident.

Hindu nationalism

Some analysts echo Owaisi’s concerns and blame the government for espousing a Hindu-leaning ideology, which has been responsible in fueling violence against Muslims.

Hindu nationalism, locally known as Hindutva, is driven by calls for racial and cultural superiority of Hindus in India.

“These vigilante groups doubtlessly feel that the authorities are on their side because there have been comments and actions, largely from elected BJP officials, aimed at showing Hindu nationalists that the government takes cow protection seriously. In some cases, BJP leaders have even publicly justified the attacks,” said Bajoria of HRW.

Members of Indian National Congress (INC), the opposition Indian political party, also blame the BJP government of embracing hatred-based politics.

“This increase in communal violence against Muslims is a result of BJP’s mentality,” said Pawan Khera, a spokesperson for INC. “They have divided the country on the basis of religion,” he told VOA. The Indian government, however, rejects these accusations.

“This is a bogie raised by our political rivals and groups which are inimical towards the BJP,” said G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesperson. “I would be happy to speak if you can offer any evidence-based analysis than flimsy and patchy motivated comments by some groups,” Rao told VOA.

violent attacks, muslim minority, rights group
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves toward his supporters during an election campaign rally in New Delhi, May 8, 2019. VOA

Divisive?

Some experts charge that BJP’s alleged lack of action could translate to its support of these actions.

“This Hindu nationalism or state-sponsored anti-Muslim sentiment is a dangerous game that will divide the country,” Ashok Swain, an Indian-born professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University in Sweden, told VOA.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra “Modi has made it India vs. Pakistan, or Hindus vs. Muslims, or rest of India vs. Kashmiris,” he said.

Kamal Mitra Chenoy, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, holds a similar view.

“Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, has termed Muslims as ‘termites’ for the country, and all the minorities are scared of this statement as they know there will be consequences,” Chenoy said.

Some analysts believe that BJP is only trying to win elections by appealing to its anti-Muslim base and is not at war with Muslims.

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“Any party or Indian government cannot operate without Muslims. I think Modi will understand it, too. BJP’s behavior is because of the election season,” Rajeev Sharma, a New Delhi-based political analyst, told VOA.

The 2019 Indian general election is under way in India and a new government will most likely be announced by the end of the month. (VOA)

Next Story

Injustice to Gorkhas in India

People are anxiously awaiting the big day when PM Modi will truly keep his words -- "Gorkhaka sapna, Mera sapna" and thus return back their land

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Injustice, Gorkhas, India
Indeed, it’s Gorkha army which is one of the most robust “armours” of the country.

BY SALIL GEWALI

One thoughtful scholar from Punjab had written once on his Facebook wall — “While our brave Gorkha soldiers are shooting the dreaded terrorists in the hostile Indo-Park borders, in Darjeeling their relatives are being gunned down by the West Bengal Government. What a contrary fact and heartless act!”  It was in the year 2017 when the Gorkhaland movement witnessed the despicable brutality of the Mamata Government. Injustice.

 Logically speaking, is this the price for being patriotic, and serving the country at the cost of life? Does it come under the laws of the land that those who shed blood for the nation should also be treated apathetically and even hurt grievously?  I think we have to recheck the constitution and sit down for serious introspection. I don’t think it is right to hit a person with a ladle spoon who lovingly cooks and serves you the food.

Injustice, Gorkhas, India
I think we have to recheck the constitution and sit down for serious introspection.

Firstly, it should be borne in mind that the history of Gorkha is not littered with any kind of treacherous misdeeds. The betrayal of trust, be it in service or in social setup, is not in their DNA. They never at any time acted like a terror group against India which some leaders want to claim. Indeed, it’s Gorkha army which is one of the most robust “armours” of the country. For ages, the fierce Gorkha fighters have been standing like a rock along the porous borders and terror-ridden POK et al in order to protect the country and safeguard its citizens within.  Of course, many top leaders never miss admiring our warriors — ‘Indians are sleeping because those brave soldiers are not asleep’. Given the spine-chilling situations across the borders, it is no an exaggerated appreciation either. 

A rare pride which the Indian Army often takes for having at its disposal 7 number of dedicated Gorkha Regiments such as 1 Gorkha Rifles (GR), 3 GR , 4 GR , 5 GR, 8 GR, 9 and 11 GRs, is always encouraging and rays of hope. These badass regiments had been most confidently chosen to put up strong fights against the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Indo-Pakistani War in 1971, Battle of Sylhet, Kargil War in 1999. And, on several occasions, they represented Indian Army to serve in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Siachen and also sent for UN peacekeeping missions to Sudan, Lebanon, and Sierra Leone. How they fought and what ways they earned the unmatched commendations for “valor” are fully recorded in the arm forces archives. Yes, there hardly a month goes without a couple of brave Gorkha warriors being martyred while fighting against the enemy. 

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But what do ones feel when these loyal army personnel’s children and relatives are accused of having connections with the terrorists or insurgent groups? This is quite outrageous. What a big irony that during the present Trinamool’s rule the West Bengal has witnessed, and also endured, a lot many horrendous activities that have literally convulsed the state. Here now exist a swarm of “special citizens” who never hesitate to have a connection with terror elements/groups within and outside. But they all are well snuggled by all-comforting and forgiving Chief Minister who is popularly known as Didi. No wonder, it is often reported that many of her loving voters, who are mostly ill-bred but over- pampered, were even caught red-handed manufacturing bombs. Such “special citizens” are round-the-clock posing threats to the “indigenous Bengali” populace also — “Baduria and Basirhat communal”  clashes, and Murshidabad being the latest in which a brutal murder took place, putting humanity to shame. Here army has no power to use even a “Lathi” (stick)  upon those special citizens while in Darjeeling Didi has given “draconian power” to gun down even the innocent pedestrians.

Injustice, Gorkhas, India
I don’t think it is right to hit a person with a ladle spoon who lovingly cooks and serves you the food.

Well, NIA (National Investigating Agency) has unearthed many such “special citizens” having established secret nexus with other underground brigands outside the country too. It was also brought to the public that their special academic institutions also teach such kind of “lessons” to the children which themselves are the “recipe for disaster”.  Many are of the apprehension, instead of expanding the “economic investments”, the Chief Minister of the West Bengal is facilitating the “explosive investments” which have almost put the country in dire straits.  But, our all-merciful Didi never felt any regret, nor threatened and worried.

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But contrastingly, when no-nonsense Gorkha populace humbly kneels down and beg her to resolve their identity crises then she loses her cool. If they persist with their demand then her administration sends ruthless police forces. Needless to say, the backbone of security of the nation has apparently stolen the Chief Minister’s sense of security. She hurried herself to make a number of caste-based developmental boards. Cunningly schemed, the move was ostensibly to sever the mutual bonds among the several Gorkha tribes/castes and thus plant the seeds of discord in every possible way. The imposition of the compulsory Bengali language upon the Gorkha is the Chief Minister’s long-term plan but the plan was severely criticized. Mamata Didi must have felt the link language Nepali used by Gorkha, which is constitutionally recognized, could act as a great unifying factor among the Gorkha’s castes. The CM must have feared that her objective could not be achieved if the Gorkha’s lingua franca (Nepali) is not undermined at the outset. 

Injustice, Gorkhas, India
Firstly, it should be borne in mind that the history of Gorkha is not littered with any kind of treacherous misdeeds.

Yes, thus West Bengal CM’s excessive passion for remaining in power has amply brought out what is worst in human. She never gave a second thought to deploy the central forces in Darjeeling. And consequently, 15 innocent Gorkhas were shot dead. But it did not touch the CM’s heart.  Her police force rather pounced upon even the poor and naïve women from the villages and tortured them brutally. It is usually expected that one, being wrapped in a “white sari”, and with a “hawai chappal”, should always walk on the path of humility and compassion, not ever being overcome by the materialistic greed and antagonism. But here Mamata-ji has seemingly beaten even the snobbish pretense of a Bollywood’s star by cleverly masking her “true self” with the garb of “sanyaasini’’. A good many dirty scams by her party men have long sullied Didi’s  “lily white sari”. 

Injustice, Gorkhas, India
The betrayal of trust, be it in service or in social setup, is not in their DNA.

It is quite apparent that Mamata-ji is steadily eyeing Darjeeling and its adjoining areas as her private fiefdom.  It seems a bunch of good scholars are now urgently required to wise her up about its history. She probably does not know about the Nepal Kingdom (after the Anglo-Nepalese War) was prudent enough to come to have a patch-up agreement, under Sugauli Treaty 1815-16, with then rapaciously imperialist ‘East India Company’. So, “Nepal Kingdom’’, to avoid continuous unpleasant conflicts, surrendered about one-fourth of its land to the British.  This included the major chunk of the mountainous, hilly and plain terrains. Areas like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Nainital, Kumaon, and Garhwal handed over to the East India Company. Rationally speaking, if all this vast area of land, its mountains, its pristine hills, rivers, flora and fauna can be regarded as Indian then why can’t the human inhabitants in it? Why is there so much skepticism and callousness? It is totally unconstitutional. Well, if our leaders still dilly dally and desist from resolving the identity crises of the two-legged native of this land then I would suggest them to meet and

consult the bio-scientists and geoscientists, and if doubt still persists, then rush for the psychiatrist. Well, now all eyes are fixed on Shri Raju Bista, a very dynamic, prudent and considerate MP elected by the Gorkha people. He and his party BJP has made the solemn assurance during the last election. People are anxiously awaiting the big day when PM Modi will truly keep his words — “Gorkhaka sapna, mera sapna” by returning back their land.  

Yes, when I shared this article with one of my friends from New Delhi, he sharply retorted – “It is a total injustice to the Gorkha people by our leaders. Such apathy of a pluralist Nation towards those brave and loyal soldiers who “came with the land” is unbecoming. Even UNO or World leaders will be shocked when they know how Gorkha are demonized in their own land.”

Injustice, Gorkhas, India
They never at any time acted like a terror group against India which some leaders want to claim.

Incidentally, Indian leaders jump in ecstasy when Sunil Chhetri scores a goal. Whole India cheers for Chhetri’s outstanding performances and lovingly call him Ronaldo of India. Shiva Thapa was affectionately patted on his back by none other than PM Narendra Modi while seeing-off for the Olympic. One feels, Gorkhas have enough of the “lip services” from Indian leaders. Now what is most important is a “true pat” on the back of the ‘’whole Gorkhas’’ by fixing their identity crises. Well, Gorkhas came with the land, never like other invaders or infiltrators who have been posing serious threats to the NATION and sovereignty. Gorkhas are the stout walls of security and integrity for the country. It is time for the Indian government to pay back their dues with gratitude. They can’t bite the bullet all the time under the brutally “heartless administration” of West Bengal.  

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali