Religion

India unconcerned about US “concern” about worsening religious freedoms

For the third straight year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended adding India to religious freedom blacklist over alleged abuses. The panel called for

targeted sanctions against India (Religious freedom in India ‘significantly worsened’: US panel, Al Jazeera Apr 25, 2022) Arundhati Roy in a lecture, at the University of Texas at Austin on April 19. (Published April 21, 2022) Focused plight of minorities and curtailment of religious freedom in India. Roy is the author of the recently published Azadi: Fascism, Fiction, and Freedom in the Time of the Virus (Haymarket Books),

Roy drew attention to the increasing numbers of prisoners of (scholars, activists, singers, and lawyers who are known as the Bhima Koregaon). The “intellectual terrorists” or ‘urban naxals” were jailed for protesting against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). An elderly arrestee, Father Stan Swamy died in custody for lack of medi-care. A Kashmiri activist Khurram Parvez, was arrested five months ago in Kashmir. He worked for, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. Sin was that he “meticulously documented the saga of torture, enforced disappearances, and death visited upon the people of Kashmir”.

All dissent has been criminalized in India. Roy recalled ‘to mark Ram Navami, violent Hindu mobs armed with swords and staff rampaged through as many as eleven cities. Led by swamis and BJP activists, they entered Muslim settlements, dog-whistling outside mosques, chanting obscene insults, openly calling for the rape and impregnation of Muslim women and the Narsinghar—genocide—of Muslim men”. A Hindu priest Yati  Narsinghar openly called for genocide of the uslims. He exhorted Hindus to arm themselves with attest firearms. A so called Hindu religious parliament (dharma sansad) endorsed his decisions.

Roy reminisced, ‘Any response by Muslims has led to the bulldozing of their property by the government or burning by mobs. Those arrested, almost all Muslims, are accused of conspiracy and rioting, and will likely spend years in jail. One of those charged was in jail on a different charge long before Ram Navami. Another, Wasim Sheikh, accused of pelting stones at the Hindu procession, is a double amputee and has no forearms. Their homes and shops were bulldozed by the government. In some cities crazed TV anchors rode inside the bulldozers.

Though the Supreme Court ordered “status quo”, the bulldozing operation was not halted. Later, the frightened Muslims were compelled to take part in a joint Hindu –Muslim procession to hoodwink the world that it was all hunky dory in Delhi.

BJP leaders who openly provoked Hindu rioters in the run up to the 2020 Delhi massacre were recently acquitted by the Delhi High Court, which held that “there is no criminality when provocative things are said with a smile”. “Some of them are back on the streets of other cities, stoking similar violence. Yet the young Muslim scholar Umar Khalid is in prison. His speech about brotherhood, love and nonviolence upholding the Indian Constitution and delivered during the anti-CAA protests, is, according to a police charge-sheet, a smokescreen for a conspiracy that led to the 2020 Delhi massacre. Apparently, Muslims conspired to riot and kill themselves during Donald Trump’s state visit in order to besmirch India’s good name”.

quest for legitimacy.

The US panel report is just tip of the iceberg

The administration and judiciary act in tandem to stifle the Muslim voice. India’s Supreme Court held that a mosque was not sine qua non of the Muslim mode of worship. Yogi Adityanath monk chief minister of Uttar Prdesh witheld funds for building perimeter walls around Muslim graveyards. Muslims offering prayers at Gurgaon were mercilessly beaten. Yogi ordered a state-wide crackdown on loudspeakers us3ed in mosques upon complaint by Allahabad University vice-chancellor Sangita Srivastava. She had written letters to authorities complaining that the prayer-call (azaan) “shouted” through loudspeakers in a nearby mosque disturbed her sleep. As such, the Muslim prayer call, azaan, should be banned altogether (Mosque lowers loudspeaker volume after Allahabad varsity V-C seeks ban on azaan, The Hindustan Times March 17, 2022).

Though the mosque administration removed the obnoxious loudspeakers, the Uttar Pradesh government under Yogi Adityanath swung into action. It removed 53,942 unauthorised loudspeakers throughout the state declaring them “unauthorised”. No action was ever taken against the Hindu processions for loud music played particularly before the mosques.  During the recent Navratri, or the Hindu New Year, this April, the fanatic Hindus from Karnataka to Himachal Pradesh took out processions with novel –pro-Hindutva music. The youth “danced to DJs, or disc jockeys, spinning electronic music that blended techno and trance, devotional and national, bhakti and vibration, speech, beat and slogan to create a toxic environment of hatred”. The Scroll magazine reportage called it “the music for “Disc Jockey Hindutva” , “assault on  minorities”, “communal tracks, sexist tracks, casteist tracks, racist tracks”. “The sound of Hindutva is no longer Om but it is its obverse: BOOM BOOM BOOM. High on hatred, it dances on the rock and plays on the beat. Hindutva has showed that music can lead to silencing the minority and a festival can be a harbinger of hate” (Brahma Prakash, By taking a leaf out of the fascist playbook, hate music is successfully communalising common sense and culture., The Scroll, April 25 , 2022). Another reportage in the Scroll pointed out” “Government action, including the continued enforcement of anti-conversion laws against non-Hindus, has created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups, including against Muslims and Christians accused of conversion activities”.

Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Aseem Goel took an oath to make India a Hindu nation at an event in Haryana’s Ambala city. The oath was administered by Suresh Chavhanke, the editor-in-chief of the television channel Sudarshan News, who is facing trial in a hate speech case for similar actions at an event held in Delhi in December.

At the event, Chavhanke also said it was unfortunate that a Uniform Civil Code had not been implemented in the country even after 75 years of India’s independence; Hindi daily Dainik Jagran reported.The BJP has plns to outlaw polygamy in Muslim marriage.

Concluding thoughts

India is nowadays hobnobbing with the USA to strengthen the QUAD.  US President Joe Biden held a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month and the two leaders are set to meet in Tokyo next month as part of a summit for the leaders of the Asia-Pacific “Quad” alliance, which also includes Japan and Australia.

The USA is unlikely to punish India with sanctions for its maltreatment of minorities.

Amjed Jaaved

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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