Following the celebration of India’s 69th Republic Day, rights groups and liberals have expressed concern over recent developments in India. At a gathering of intellectuals at Patna on Monday, Rashtra Seva Dal president Dr Suresh Khairnar said that India was going through an ‘unofficial emergency’, with far reaching ramifications. Marginalization of not only religious minorities, but of liberals, rationalists, and others are also taking place while the government turns a blind eye to blatant provocation and violence against minorities.
Is India really in turmoil or is the government of the day just getting a negative press? This is for the intelligent reader to decide and the aware citizen to decode from the things occurring around the neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, civil society groups in India have backed a Human Rights Watch report that condemns the unabated violence that religious minorities suffer at the hands of right-wing Hindu groups.
India’s federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to contain rights violations on several fronts, according to the New York-based group’s 2018 World Report.
“The government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior BJP leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence,” said the Human Rights Watch report.
An increasing threat in 2017 was “vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities and critics of the government” by groups claiming to support the ruling party, it said.
The report listed several cases of violations including army excesses in the disputed Kashmir region and unequal treatment of India’s indigenous and Dalit people, who were formerly considered untouchable.
“Dissent was labeled anti-national, and activists, journalists and academics were targeted for their views, chilling free expression,” the report said.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told reporters after the report’s release that Indian authorities have proved unwilling to protect minority religious communities and other vulnerable groups from frequent attacks.
Those responsible for such attacks need to be prosecuted to prevent future attacks, she said.
The report confirms what Indians have been witnessing in the past four years since the BJP government came to power, said Pravin Mishra of human rights organization Jan Sangharsh Manch (people’s resistance forum).
“India is passing through a very turbulent period. Such violence against minorities was never witnessed since the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947,” Mishra told ucanews.com.
The BJP now rules 19 of India’s 29 states and “one can see the graph of violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits has spiraled specifically in BJP-ruled states,” Mishra said.
P.T. John, general secretary of a tea planters’ union in the southern state of Kerala, told ucanews.com that the government makes no effort to protect minorities.
“Hindu groups who keep targeting minorities defend their actions while protecting themselves as nationalists. They are making a mockery of the law and of the country’s Supreme Court,” John said.
Dalit leader Vinay Kumar, a member of the National Federation for Dalit Land in India, told ucanews.com that oppression of minorities is nothing new in India but it has deepened since the BJP came to power.
Hindu hardliners often present Christians and Muslims as foreigners in India, which belongs to only Hindus. “With such a mindset in place, how can minorities feel secure in the country?” Kumar asked.
Right-wing Hindu groups were once dismissed as “fringe elements” but they cannot be considered so any more as the ruling party depends on their support and attacks have become regular.
Hindus in India number 966 million in a population of 1.2 billion, but Muslims are a considerable minority as they form 172 million. Christians are hardly 28 million and constitute less than one percent in most northern states, where they mostly face violence from Hindu groups.
Persecution Relief, an ecumenical Christian forum that monitors persecution, claims it recorded 600 incidents in 2017 of violence on Christians, including destruction of churches, threats and harassment, social boycotts, hate campaigns, abductions, murder, physical violence and attempted murder.