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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.

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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.

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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)

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Mercy for the Nirbhaya Rapists?

Gender discrimination is the root of many evils. While keeping the aspiration of females down, certain males have committed many wrongs in the past.

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Nirbhaya
The Nirbhaya incident in Delhi was “instrumental” in bringing about a kind of gender awareness renaissance in India.

By Salil Gewali

Gender discrimination is the root of many evils. While keeping the aspiration of females down, certain males have committed many wrongs in the past. Apart from various kinds of physical tortures, the mental tortures undergone by defenseless females are endless. Within the confinement of four-walls innumerable sins are still being committed which mostly go unreported. However, it was Nirbhaya’s rape incident in Delhi that was “instrumental” in bringing about a kind of gender awareness renaissance in India. Post-Nirbhaya incident, a lot many changes in the laws have been made. The safety and security of women have been prioritized, the nation-wide the whole police departments have been sensitized, to a greater extent the road transportation has been made women-friendly.

Nirbhaya rape
The public is right and more sensible now to point out the “hard cruelty” with which the gang had sexually tortured Nirbhaya that night.

Thanks to the countless number of protests across the country condemning the six rapists. The people from all walks of life came together and relentlessly pressurized the government that the Nirbhaya convicts must be awarded capital punishment. Media’s contribution in the campaign is immeasurable. Alas, India’s judiciary is so annoyingly slow it has taken over 7 years to pronounce the death sentence.

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Advocate Indira Jaising suggested that the convicts of Nirbhaya rape case could be “forgiven” by the parents.

However, now nothing could be so mind-blowing than the flood of condemnation against the comments by a veteran advocate and social activist Indira Jaising. Without a sense of guilt and potential backlash, she suggested that the convicts be “forgiven” by the parents. Jaising’s idea has clearly touched a raw nerve of the major population in the country. People’s anger is spilled well over social media. What is most noteworthy is the scathing condemnation directly from the horse mouth — the mother Asha Devi. A very bold lady, who determinedly fought for justice for so many years, thunders – “Who is Indira Jaising to give me such a suggestion? The whole country wants the convicts to be executed. Just because of people like her, justice is not done with rape victims,” Asha Devi aptly further adds — “Can’t believe how Jaising even dared to suggest such this; I met her many times over the years in Supreme Court, “not once” she asked for my well-being and today she is speaking for convicts. Such people earn a livelihood by supporting rapists; hence rape incidents don’t stop,”

The latter comments by the Nirbhaya’s mother clearly hint the doubt at the “integrity” of the advocate Ms. Jaising. How on earth that one who has not spoken a word of sympathy in spite of many encounters in the court can reserves the right to suggest that which offends the distressed victim party. Asha Devi deserves a salute for her boldness. Yes, India Jaising is one of the advocates who knocked the door of the Chief Justice of India in the middle of the night in July 2015 in order to seek the mercy for the dreaded terrorist Yakub Menon.

Nirbhaya rapists
In 2015, the Delhi Government proposed to award the Nirbhaya juvenile convicts with Rs 10000/- and a sewing machine.

Again, here is another bombshell to drop which many of us may have forgotten. Can we ever “forgive” for the shocking proposal in 2015 by Delhi Government to award the Nirbhaya juvenile convicts with Rs 10000/- and a sewing machine?  Who has approved such bizarre ideas and which leaders are responsible? What kind of lesson should the citizens take from this?

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I think the public is right and more sensible now to point out the “hard cruelty” with which the gang had sexually tortured Nirbhaya that night. They had used the iron-rod to inflict deep injuries upon the girl which is unspeakable, which is very unpardonable. So, given the increasing cases of rapes and subsequent inhumane cruelty and cold-blooded killings, Capital punishment can be the only answer and “one of the deterrents”. Before the divine retribution, the hard rod of punishment should not be spared at all. 

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