US Concerns over Indian Minorities
By Sajjad Shaukat
In this regard, on April 30, in its annual report 2015, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said, “Since the [last year’s] election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The report pointed out, “Hindu groups had announced plans in December to forcibly reconvert at least 4,000 Christian families and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh as part of a so-called ‘ghar wap’’ (homecoming) programme…the Hindu groups sought to raise money for their campaign, noting that it cost nearly 200,000 rupees per Christian and 500,000 rupees per Muslim.”
The Panel asked the Obama Administration to press the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who make derogatory remarks about various communities including Sikhs.
However, as part of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian approach, leader of the BJP and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving impetus to Hindu chauvinism. Indian society is rapidly radicalizing, as unprecedented rise of Hindu extremism has posed serious threats to the very existence of the religious minorities.
It is amazing that theoretically, Indian Constitution safeguards the rights of minorities, but in practice, ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) prevails. Hindu majority led by the BJP has shown complete disregard to it, and commit excesses and cruelties against Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits with impunity.
Hindu politics and culture, dominated by the fundamentalist parties such as BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena and RSS including other extremist outfits have been propagating Hindutva. Provocative utterances of their extremist leaders have resulted into unending violence especially against the Muslims and Christians.
It is mentionable that Hinduvta agenda enabled BJP hardliner, Narendra Modi to get a land sliding triumph in the Indian elections 2014. In this respect, RSS driven anti-Muslim move of the BJP including other Hindu fanatic parties could be judged from various developments. On May 28, 2014, Rashtriya Hindu Andolan, a Mangalore-based Hindutva outfit and activists from various right wing groups organized a protest in Mangalore in front of the office of Deputy Commissioner by demanding the authorities to ban the morning Muslim call to prayer (Azan) across the country. Besides forcing the Muslim employee in a Parliament Canteen by BJP leader to break his fast by stuffing piece of bread in his mouth, statement of Deputy Chief of Goa, declaring India as a Hindu state might be cited as example.
It is noteworthy that in 1992, a large crowd of Hindu Karsevaks (volunteers) in accordance with a preplanned scheme of the Indian high officials entirely demolished the 16th-century Babri Masjid (mosque) to reclaim the land known as RAM Janmabhoomi–birthplace of the god. The destruction of the Babri Masjid sparked Muslim outrage around the country, provoking several months of inter-communal rioting between Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people, majority of whom were Muslims. Besides, massacre of 2500 Muslims in the in the BJP-ruled Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 and those of more than 2002 Muslims during the communal riots of 2008 in Uttar Pradesh—participation of Indian high officials and leaders of the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal in the incidents might also be cited as instance.
Similarly, in the recent years, assaults on Christians, their churches and property have been executed by the Hindu mobs in various cities of India. In this connection, at least 100 Christians have been assassinated by Hindu extremists, mostly in the state of Orissa.
It is of particular attention that on November 7, 2011, leader of the VHP, Pravin Togadia, in his furious speech questioned the past of Muslims and Christians, and further gave a call to Hindus to capture the Islamic holy places in Arab and Vatican of Europe.
It is worth-mentioning that forced conversions of other religious minorities into Hindus also continue. In this regard, Bajrang Dal, an offshoot of the RSS, converted at least 57 Muslim families (200 people) into Hindus at a ceremony in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
Previously, in early September 2014, Christians were also forcefully converted to Hindus which created unrest among Christian clergy. Recently, a similar event in Aligarh saw Christian families converting to Hinduism. Since installment of the BJP government in the center, this campaign has been accelerated.
As regards persecution of minorities in India, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Testimony by Human Rights Watch presented before US Senate Committee on atrocious attitude of Hindu majority had highlighted the plight of minorities in India. The report was presented before Indian general elections 2014. But, it is strange that American government which had denied visa to Modi on the basis of his involvement in Gujrat genocide, allowed.
Nevertheless, some of the fanatic Hindu groups are not in favour of a separate and distinct culture for minorities. A Hindu fundamentalist namely Prof Balraj Madhok had suggested that the minorities must adopt Indian (Hindu) names.
Now, schools and other educational institutions are being systematically Hinduized. References to Hindu gods and goddesses abound in the text books. Books, prescribed by the Education Boards contain lessons giving false stories of Muslim atrocities on Hindu women, kidnapping, forced conversion etc.
Undoubtedly, Hindu fundamentalism is increasingly widening its influence everywhere and has already established for itself a firm base in every sector of the Indian society including bureaucracy, media, educational institutions, and the like. The hate campaign unleashed by the fundamentalist forces is keeping the minority wholly preoccupied with defending their basic human rights and cultural identity.
Nonetheless, it is a good sign that the US has abandoned its double standard by showing grave concerns about mistreatment of Indian religious minorities. American said report has exposed Indian false claim of the largest democracy, acting upon the principles of liberalism and secularism. Now, the West and particular the US must take appropriate steps against New Delhi in this respect. Otherwise, Hindu extremists may cause World War 111 or clash of civilizations.