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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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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


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

Here’s What India’s Privacy Bill Requires from Social Media Firms

"The future may bring challenging times for social media companies to comply with the private data related requests under the new law if it's approved as tabled. Many popular social media platforms would have to invest significantly in order to adhere to the data sharing requests and yet may not be able to meet the requests due to technical difficulties," said Sunil Chandna, CEO, Stellar Data Recovery

fake, media, behaviour, artificial intelligence
Social Media Icons. VOA

While the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019, introduced in Parliament on Wednesday has toned down the data localisation requirements, it has several implications for social media companies including a provision for users for voluntary verification of their accounts, say experts.

The Bill draws its origins from the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee on data privacy, which produced a draft of legislation that was made public in 2018 (“the Srikrishna Bill”).

The mandatory requirement for storing a mirror copy of all personal data in India as per Section 40 of the Srikrishna Bill has been done away with in the PDP Bill, 2019, meaning that companies like Facebook and Twitter would be able to store data of Indian users abroad if they so wish, said Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director at, a New Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services organisation.

“Data localisation has been toned down. Now only sensitive personal data and critical personal data have to be stored here,” Sugathan said.

“Social media companies will have to modify their application. They need to have a system in place by which a user can verify themselves. So probably some system to upload identification documents should be there. And it also suggests that something like the Twitter blue tick mark should be there to identify verified accounts,” Sugathan said.

“But it is up to the user whether he or she wants to verify themselves or not. I am not sure why something like this is required in the data protection law,” he pointed out.

According to Arun Prabhu, Partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, certain changes made to the draft Bill are business friendly including the changes made to the data localisations requirements.

“On the other hand, portions of the Bill have been pared down, and some changes such as the lack of a clear implementation timeline, requirement to share non personal data, obligations for social media verification etc. may be a potential source of concern,” Prabhu said.

The PDP Bill, 2019 extends the obligations of significant data processors or fiduciaries to social media intermediaries (SMI).

Social Media
Social Media use was measured by asking participants how much time they spent on social networking sites on a typical day. Pixabay

Verified user accounts will be marked with a demonstrable verification mark. As per Section 29, data auditors are required to evaluate social media intermediaries for timely implementation of their obligations under account verification norms.

Other obligations applicable to social media intermediaries include data protection impact assessments, maintenance of records, audit of policies, and appointment of a data protection officer.

What has, however, raised eyebrows is that the Bill gives the government ultimate rights and powers to seek access to users’ data to help formulate policies.

Section 42 of the Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 allowed access of personal data to the state for security purposes based on principles of necessity and proportionality and on the basis of authorisation under law.

The provision for government access to personal data under the PDP Bill, 2019 (Section 35) is wider, gives the Central Government power to exempt any government agency from the purview of the Bill (all or select provisions) and does not codify the principles of necessity and proportionality as determinants to access, said.

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“While the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 addresses the issue of informed consent, it only states that the data fiduciary must process data in a fair and reasonable manner that respects the privacy of the individual,” said Swapnil Shekhar, Co-founder & Director, Sambodhi Research and Communications.

“The Bill does not specify what constitutes fair and reasonable leaving room for the potential violation of privacy,” Shekhar said.

“The future may bring challenging times for social media companies to comply with the private data related requests under the new law if it’s approved as tabled. Many popular social media platforms would have to invest significantly in order to adhere to the data sharing requests and yet may not be able to meet the requests due to technical difficulties,” said Sunil Chandna, CEO, Stellar Data Recovery. (IANS)