August 22nd is the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. It is a day designated by the U.N. for member states to reflect on their efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and violence against persons based on religion or belief. The day is a direct response to the ever-growing issue of violence based on religion, including in their most severe manifestations, international crimes such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocides.
International law rejects any attempt to use freedom of religion or belief, as justification for the destruction of the rights and freedoms of others. Online and offline hate speech that takes the form of expressions of intolerance, discrimination and violence against individuals on the basis of religion or belief should be addressed and countered.
Over the last decade, various cases of the most egregious atrocities can be observed where religion has been abused as a tool of discrimination and violence resulting in atrocity crimes. In 2014, Daesh unleashed genocidal atrocities against the Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. In 2016, the Burmese military attacked the Rohingya in Myanmar killing many and forcing over a million people to flee. In 2018, stories of thousands of Uyghur Muslims being placed in quasi-prisons where they would be subjected to a litany of abuses started circulating the news.
In 2022, Putin attacked Ukraine unleashing crimes against humanity. There are stories of Putin’s use of religion to justify the war. In June 2022, the U.K. Government imposed Magnitsky sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, for his support and endorsement of Putin’s war. This article seeks to highlight the Indian discriminatory treatment of the Muslim citizens, the dead democracy of a so-called ‘secular’ nation and violations of human rights.
The Rise of Fascism in India
Indian Muslims are one of the largest Muslim population blocs in the world (estimates range from 140-190 million). They also form the largest minority in India (10–14%). They are threatened today by the rise of militant Hindutva, or ‘Hindu nationalism’. Under Modi’s rule, India has turned into a majoritarian state where religious minorities, including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and others, are being persecuted.
The anti-Muslim and anti-minority policies of the Modi government are detrimental to India as well. Human Rights Watch report highlighted that BJP has been increasingly harassing, arresting, and prosecuting rights defenders, activists, journalists, students, academics, and others critical of the government or its policies. Such intolerant policies are inevitably leading to rising instability and chaos at every level in India.
Read more: India’s fascist policies towards minorities
Global State of Democracy’s report has revealed India’s excessive use of force to enforce COVID-19 rules, harassment against Muslim minorities, internet obstructions and lockdowns, particularly in Kashmir. The reason behind this is the ‘rise of illiberal and populist leaders’ to government offices over the last decade. The report revealed that Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association and Assembly, and Freedom of Movement have also been declining in India during the period of such illiberal governments.
The visible decline of secular democracy in India
‘Majoritarianism’ is the correct term to describe the Hindutva mindset. Hindu Nationalists believe that only Hindus should have rights as they own the nation, and this is justified because they form the majority. Nehru was to the point when he defined Hindutva as ‘fascism; Hindu style’. Hindutva Icon Savarkar & Golwalker had repeatedly raised anti-Muslim slogans to the extent where Savarkar called raping Muslim Women one of the tools to seek revenge. Whereas Golwalker & Mahasabha raised issues like Cow Slaughter and Love Jihad against Muslims in the 1920s which are becoming more prominent in recent days as an excuse to lynch Muslims.
Hindutva was re-awakened in the mid-1980s led by L.K. Advani. Advani was a refugee politician, and an RSS member, originally from Karachi (now in Pakistan). The RSS(formerly known as Hindu Mahasabha), which had been sidelined after their role in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, began to sense the possibility of reviving their dream of a Hindu supremacist nation run along Hitler’s model. The RSS had by then created a political front, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Modi became PM in 2014, crippled the Indian economy but still won the election by a bigger majority in 2019. Why? Only because of the short cross-border confrontation with Pakistan which mysteriously occurred just before the general election. The air strike against alleged terror camps was believed to be successful by the Hindu majority. Although it proved to be a big failure internationally, but it reinforced Modi’s image of a strong Hindu who stands up to Muslims.
This time, a plan for a Hitler-style reduction of the Muslim citizens was unveiled. The matters took a very serious turn for Indian Muslims. The government brought a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam to decide between bona fide citizens and illegals. The documentation asked to prove citizenships were birth certificates and parents’ birth certificates. It started due to a perceived problem of illegal Bangladeshi migration to Assam in the northeast of India, which was allegedly changing the Hindu-Muslim population ratio.
Read more: India-bound suicide bomber from ISIS caught
India: the country with the worst implementation of human rights?
Detention centers or concentration camps started to be built in Assam for those without the citizenship document. Once sent to the concentration camp, the inmate would have no recourse to justice or law as the person was stateless. Prominent Indian Hindu leaders openly called for massacring Muslims. There has been complete silence by the government, with no reprimand of those involved in such explicit calls. This essentially points not only toward the state’s complete endorsement of such incidents but also to the politicization of India’s state institutions.
The case of young Muskan Khan, a 19-year-old student from Karnataka who was harassed by a Hindu far-right mob trying to stop her from entering her college wearing a hijab, is one of the examples of this oppression. Karnataka state has issued directives to ban all religious clothing inside campuses, especially targeting Muslim females donning the hijab.
Modi’s government created a Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which claimed it was providing humanitarian refuge to persecuted minorities from three Muslim countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. This allowed Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Christian refugees from these three countries to apply for citizenship – but it expressly denied Muslims. Citizenship based on selective exclusion was reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Race Laws.
The impact of Covid-19
Instead of planning to tackle Covid-19, the hate spewed out against Muslims by the BJP government’s officials and their media continued with a redoubled vengeance in new ways. The spread of Covid-19 was blamed on a Muslim Tablighi conference. Some Indian TV channels said Muslims were engaged in a ‘corona jihad’. Muslims became targets for attacks and some were denied treatment in hospitals in northern India. Modi’s government plan is to disenfranchise Muslims politically and economically through a Nazi-derived model of citizenship.
To conclude, Abuse of Religion or Belief as a Tool of Discrimination and Violence must be condemned in any form, anywhere in the world. This day is crucial to address the issue of abuse of religion or belief to justify all kinds of discrimination, harassment, and violence in their various shapes and forms. The abuse of religion or belief must be duly recognized for what it is and acted upon.
The writer has worked for I-SAPS, ISSRA and ISPR. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.