As a wave of spontaneous people’s protest was sweeping India’s metros over the lynching of Muslims in various parts of North India with the tacit backing of the Government, London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) came out on Friday with a disturbing report on the deteriorating condition of India’s Muslims since Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May 2014.
The report entitled ‘A Narrowing Space: Violence and Discrimination against India’s Religious Minorities,’ pointed out that in 2016 alone, there were 86 deaths in over 700 violent communal incidents in India. Most of these were between Hindus and Muslims and most of the dead were Muslims.
“Government data released in 2013, for example, estimated that between January and mid-September that year, there had been 479 separate incidents of communal violence, resulting in the death of 66 Muslims and 41 Hindus. In addition, 1,647 people were injured, including 794 Hindu and 703 Muslim civilians, the remainder being the police,” the report said.
“Similarly, analysis 62 incidents of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims during 2016, covered in the mainstream Indian media, found that Muslims appeared to have been most affected. Out of four incidents which resulted in deaths, where disaggregated data was included, 7 out of 8 reported deaths were Muslim.
“Out of five incidents, where disaggregated data was available, 46 Muslims were injured compared to 11 Hindus. And in the three incidents where disaggregated data was available for attacks on houses, 67 Muslim homes had been attacked compared to one Hindu home.
“Of the 12 incidents where disaggregated data was available, 178 Muslims and 75 Hindus were arrested – meaning that Muslims were also primarily targeted by law enforcement agencies,” the MRG report said.
The disproportionateness of the suffering of the Muslims can be seen starkly if one considers the fact that they are only 14.2% of the Indian population of 1.2 billion. And they are only 19% of the population of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which also had the largest number of violent Hindu-Muslim incidents.
The MRG report makes no bones about the fact that communal violence has increased since the BJP, headed by Narendra Modi, came to power at the Centre in 2014 with its “exclusivist agenda” aimed at the marginalisation of the minority religious groups, particularly, the Muslims.
As per the BJP’s Hindu nationalist view, Muslims are typically proxies of the neighbouring Muslim country, Pakistan, which had broken away from India in 1947 after bloody riots across North India and Bengal.
The Modi regime has the dubious distinction of stepping up the use of “lynching” to subdue the Muslims. A study by the website IndiaSpends found that Muslims were the target of 51% of violence centred on the cow protection issue between 2010 and 2017. Among the 28 Indians killed in 63 incidents, 86% were Muslims.
As many of 97% of attacks on Muslims were reported after Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014. About half the cow-related violent incidents (32 of 63 cases) were from states governed by the BJP when the attacks were reported.
In the first six months of 2017, 20 “cow-terror” attacks were reported – more than 75% of the figure for 2016. More than half (52%) of these attacks were based on rumours, the IndiaSpend analysis found.
According to Amnesty International, India has been suffering a wave of vigilante murders, with at least 10 Muslims killed by mobs since April this year.
Cow vigilantes on rampage
The Modi Government had given Gau Rakshaks, or cow protection vigilantes, an unofficial license to choose their targets and lynch them. Given the fact that the Gau Rakshaks are affiliated to one or the other bodies of the BJP’s Sangh Parivar (Hindu nationalist organisations allied with the BJP), law enforcement agencies generally looked the other way, or let the murderers off, and booked the victims.
To reinforce anti-Muslim feelings among the Hindus, and give these feelings sanction at the highest level, Prime Minister Modi stopped the time-honoured practice of Indian Prime Ministers hosting an Iftar party for Muslim leaders and personalities once during Ramadan every year.
Modi has also scrupulously avoided the customary Iftar hosted by the President of India. Taking the cue from him, his ministers also avoided the Iftar hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee this year. Modi had also refrained from greeting Muslims on Eid.
Taking the cue from the Supremo, Sangh Parivar leaders started making hate speeches against Muslims. Sadhvi Saraswati told the Hindu Reawakening should stock weapons to fight “Love Jihad”. “Love Jihad” refers to Muslim men allegedly wooing Hindu women to marry and convert them to Islam.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a Muslim leader in the BJP and a junior Central government minister, said that Muslims who want to eat beef should migrate to Pakistan. Hindus are allowed to cheer Pakistan in a cricket match, but if Muslims do, they are dubbed “anti-Indian” and arrested for “sedition”. Scores of Muslims were arrested for cheering Pakistan in the recent Champions’ trophy finals.
Recently, the Modi Government brought a law to prevent the sale of cattle for slaughter. This has hit the beef business which is largely in the hands of Qureishi Muslims. It has also affected the eating habits of Muslims and Christians.
58-year-old Mohammad Akhlak of Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, was stoned to death by fellow villagers allegedly for keeping beef in his refrigerator. 15-year-old Hafiz Junaid of Haryana was stabbed to death by fellow passengers in a train as they suspected that the food packet he was carrying contained beef.
Slaughter of milch cattle is banned under the Indian constitution and seven Indian provinces have passed laws banning cow slaughter and prescribed a range of punishments including life imprisonment, as in Gujarat. Maharashtra has banned bull slaughter also. Cow vigilantes, who have mushroomed, take shelter under these laws and the inactive and partisan police also use them to let the murderers off the hook and book the Muslim victims.
Modi breaks silence
Young Junaid’s coldblooded murder this month awakened the conscience of India’s silent majority. The social media was used to condemn lynching and a spontaneous movement named “Not in My Name” organised demonstrations in all big cities which got wide media coverage both at home and abroad.
Modi, who was on tour in the US and the Netherlands, through the latest incidents, was obviously embarrassed. Forced to break his two-year silence on the killings, he said on Thursday: “Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti (devotion to the cow) is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve. No person in this nation has the right to take the law into his or her own hands. Violence has never solved any problem.”
It is noteworthy that Modi expressed only a mild disapproval. His statement had no condemnation or warning to the wrong doers. Nor was there any hint that action will be taken against them. It is likely that there will be a pause in the heinous campaign against the Muslims, but it is unlikely to end.