South Asia

Indian government’s apathy towards minorities

Opposition in India in rajya sabha (council of states) had asked government“whether there has been a rise in attacks on minorities and their institutions in India”. The government wanted to parry answers to this simple question. So, in its written reply, the newly appointed minister of minorities, Smriti Irani just said “that the state governments (not the center) maintain data on law and order, registration and prosecution of crime against all citizens, including minorities, as public order and police are subjects under the State List of the (Indian) Constitution”.

Aside from the evasive answer, there had been a spate of attacks against the minorities in the past few months and the last year.

In June, the United States Department of State’s Report on International Religious Freedom for 2021 alleged that “attacks on minorities in India, including killings, assaults and intimidation, took place throughout last year”. The report mentioned several corroborative incidents. On September 26 last, a 14-year-old Christian boy from Bihar’s Gaya district succumbed to burn injuries when some fanatic Hindus sprinkled died acid on him. On August 26, police stripped two Muslims naked and beat them up during an interrogation.

In several parts of the country, calls for genocide against Muslims were made. Repeat offenders like priest Narsinghanand Saraswati made inflammatory speeches against Muslims. Hindutva supremacists threatened to rape Muslim women and online abusers created apps to put them on “auctions”. A fact-finding report released on December 5 found that 305 attacks took place on the members of the Christian community across India between January and September last year.

The US report is replete with several incidents. It highlights  rising attacks on people and places of worship, incidents of vigilantism against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or selling or possessing beef, extrajudicial killings, degrading treatment or punishment by the police and prison officials and arbitrary arrests and detentions by government authorities among other concerns. The report claimed that ten out of 28 states in the country have laws restricting religious conversions. Four state governments had laws imposing penalties against so-called forced religious conversions for the purpose of marriage.

Ambassador-At-Large For International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain said that some officials in India were “ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship”.

In another report released in December, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties listed 39 incidents of violence against Christians in Karnataka alone, between January 2021 and November 2021.

The crux of the problem

The real problem is not the non-availability of statistics, but the complicity of law-enforcing agencies with the persecutor.  The police and other agencies have a heyday as the minorities particularly the minorities are underrepresented in the parliament and services (armed forces, police bureaucracy, etc). To create fear, the police patronize the “cow guards” and the anti-Romeo vigilantes. Hindu dominated administration is least motivated to prevent violence against minorities.

In most cases, fanatic Hindus carries out violence with police connivance and complicity. Forty per cent of the people who died in communal riots in Mumbai between December 1992 and January 1993 were shot dead by police (Justice Srikrishna 1998, Vol I, Chapter 2, para 1-25).

Chapter 4 of the report specifically points to connivance of the police with rioters. The Liberhahn Commission Report documented   similar police bias in Uttar Pradesh. “The destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 as a result of mob violence orchestrated by Sangh Parivar depended not only on the frenzy of hatred by Hindu nationalists (Justice Liberhahn, 2009, 377 para, 61.33), but also the religious lies of the law enforcers (Liberhahn Memo, 2010, para 2.6), the lack of police and bureaucratic professionalism (Liberhahn Memo 2010, para 2.12). Justice Liberhahn’s inquiry into the violence of Ayodhya concluded that serious public disorder had occurred because the local police were incapable of or unwilling to act because of their sympathy for the supporters of Hindutvaism”. “What also became painfully obvious was the danger of allowing the guardians of peace to sympathise  with miscreants to the extent that they became  a part and parcel of the problem instead of the solution (Liberhahn’s Memo 2010, para 3.6.

Political leaders spearheading the mob were honourably acquitted by the courts. Attack on and demolition of the mosque became a fait accompli. .Interestingly, in judgment Indi’s Supreme Court observed that a mosque was not necessary for the Muslim mode of worship. Muslims offering prayers in open space at Gurgaon were beaten and dispersed. Thousands of loudspeakers were dismantled or low tuned lest they disturb people’s sleep.

Myth: Hindus are a dying race

There is incessant propaganda that Hindus are a dying race. Muslim households have four wives and 25 children each. One day they would surpass Hindu population of India. The fanatics ignore the fact that high fertility in Muslim minority accompanies high mortality. The myth is attributed to Savarkar (1923). But, in actual fact it predates him. UN Mukherjee (1909), in his essay A Dying Race popularized the myth. 

Opposition to law

India’s most spiritually inclined political leader, M. K. Gandhi, identified the law as the key obstacle to religious harmony. Even before he returned to India, in his manifesto Hind Swaraj (1909), Gandhi chastised both Hindus and Muslims for failing to see the law as a gladiatorial set-up that could only lead to vengeful hatred. Despite himself being a lawyer,  Gandhi pointed out the moral bankruptcy of expecting justice through any commercial transactions between lawyers.

Concluding remark

The majoritarian India pays only lip service to rights of minorities. The international community should expose the true face of India. Voracious readers may like to go through  Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism  is Changing India byAnjana P Chatterji, Thoms Blom Hansen, and Christopher Jaffrelot (eds.)

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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