India heading towards genocide: experts

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Intimidation of minorities part of BJP’s election strategy: experts

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: Hindutva majoritarianism is heading in the direction of genocide, and the world’s leaders must try and prevent that from happening, no matter their strategic inclinations, stated participants at a roundtable organized by Jinnah Institute on Thursday. The recent controversy over hijab across universities in Karnataka, followed by mobs breaking into classrooms demanding that Muslim girls remove hijabs or go home, demonstrate the accelerated pace at which India is turning into a Hindu-supremacist polity that seeks to drive out other identities and customs. 

Participants stated that the plight of Kashmiri Muslims, long before the revocation of Article 370, was known to all across the world, but the usurpation of political rights and wave of tyranny unleased by the Modi government in its second term is unprecedented even by Indian standards. Marginalization of all religious identities, especially the onslaught against Muslim communities is a daily occurrence, especially in the wake of electoral campaigns in Uttar Pradesh and other states, where communal politics is routinely used to intimidate minorities.

Some pointed out that Hindutva is by no means a recent political movement, and its bold new iteration has emerged from decades of sidelined radical activism, that could not demonstrate its extremist power under secular governments. It always stayed under the surface, until 2014 when the mainstream embraced political Hindutva under the BJP-RSS steer, showing how long India’s Hindu polity had waited for this moment, and had never bought into the secularism of its constitution.

Participants cited judgements of the Indian courts over thirty years that show how legal precedents enabled the marginalization of Muslims and Christians, and how far Hindutva has permeated India’s state institutions. The few Indian voices calling out atrocities in Kashmir, or moves against schoolgirls wearing the hijab, or attacks against Muslim street vendors, are few are far between. Other than a handful of journalists who report at high risk to their personal security, the media services BJP’s project of spreading communal hatred and disunion.

Experts debated Pakistan’s stake in highlighting the rights of Indian minorities, when Pakistan’s own human rights record was far from satisfactory. Should concern for Indian Muslims be raised from Pakistan, and does it register with international lobbies? They observed that no supremacist Islamist group had a chance of winning elections in Pakistan’s provinces or centre, despite radicalization manifesting itself in other ways. Comparisons between India and Pakistan are also not apt as rights abuses, systemic marginalization of communities, and religious discrimination anywhere must be called out, inspite of the state’s incapacity to deal with non-state actors, and especially if the political leadership itself sanctions violence and abuse. They felt that civil societies have a moral obligation to raise alarm and concern over rights abuses anywhere. The marginalization of India’s 215 million Muslims resonates with Pakistanis the same way as the Rohingya genocide did, infact more so as we shared a common integrated past that history has not undone to this day.

Partition occurred for the very same political dynamics seventy years ago, that is Hindu majoritarianism excluding all other identities and cultures from power, coloured by a streak of Hindutva fascism that used violence as an instrument of domination. Participants felt that Pakistan must take a stand against atrocities in Kashmir and the situation confronting Muslims all over India, paying attention to its own vulnerable communities, and with a considered messaging strategy that makes human rights the focus of its intervention.