India – a country of nearly 1.4 billion people seen by many around the world as an example of coexistence, pluralism and diversity – is engulfed in a fire of Hindu supremacy. The situation has become so tense that Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, has warned that India may be on the verge of committing genocide against Muslim citizens. Stanton predicted the massacre of the Tutsi community in Rwanda before it took place in 1994.
You might want to dismiss Stanton’s statement as an exaggeration or an alarmist point of view. Yet, for those of us who are Indian minorities, it is a reality we live with every day.
In recent weeks, Muslim women in colleges in the southern state of Karnataka have been banned from wearing the hijab and have been heckled and stalked by Hindu nationalists in the streets. Muslim villagers are beaten for allegedly smuggling cows, which are sacred to the Hindu faith; one of the Muslim victims was later arrested. And a Delhi court recently harshly criticized Delhi police for allowing and supporting mobs as they rioted near a mosque.
But where is the response from the international community? A world that does not hesitate to express its indignation at other dictatorships and demagogues is dragging its feet to denounce the decline of India into a majority abyss.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited India in April and was seen posing with a JCB digger – the type of machine that was used to demolish the homes of poor Muslims in Delhi days before.
That same month, during a meeting with India’s Foreign Minister on April 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was monitoring human rights abuses in India. A Biden administration official told me that government officials “need to keep their strategic interest in India in mind, but they are watching events in India with great concern and ensuring that those concerns are communicated. at each step”.
President Biden is meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Japan later this month as part of the “Quad” summit (between the United States, Japan, Australia and India), to strengthen Indo-Indian relations. peaceful. Will Biden speak about the existential threat to Indian Muslims and voice his commitment to strengthening democratic values? Or are human rights abuses not of global interest if the country is an important strategic ally?
As a journalist who has documented hate crimes, persecution and otherness of Muslims in India for over a decade, I have found the past five weeks during the holy month of Ramadan by far the most difficult in memory.
We have seen men perched on top of mosques with saffron flags; crowds chanting genocidal slogans against Muslims with swords drawn; a Hindu priest addressing a crowd threatening to rape Muslim women. We have seen videos of people, including a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party and the head of a right-wing TV station, pledging to convert India into a Hindu state.
Loudspeakers have been placed in temples near mosques by right-wing politicians to drown out the azaan (Muslim call to prayer) with Hindu prayers. Muslims who would wake to the call of morning prayers now face a numbing silence as mosques stop broadcasting.
Just this month, a BJP state legislator suggested that Muslims should be set on fire, just as Hindus set fire to demons in their holy scripture. Hindu nationalists demonstrated outside Delhi’s iconic Qutub Minar. They want him to be renamed for a Hindu god; a plea was also submitted to the High Court in Allahabad to open chambers and verify Hindu idols in the Taj Mahal, a symbol of love built by the Mughals. Are these examples enough to awaken the collective conscience of the world?
In all of this, where is the prime minister, and why hasn’t he issued a statement to maintain public harmony? Those who have watched Modi’s political career – particularly as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, when over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were massacred under his leadership – will tell you that he has maintained a similar silence through hate speech and crime that led to one of the worst anti-Muslim pogroms in recent history. US banned Modi entry after violence; the ban was lifted amid his rise to become prime minister in 2014.
Today, India is experiencing an almost disturbing re-enactment of events and politics in Gujarat in 2002. Emboldened by the world’s diplomatic silence, Indian Muslims fear the worst in the days ahead.