AS India undergoes a transformation from a relatively secular state into a Hindutva-inspired rashtra, under the watchful eye of the ruling BJP and its ideological fellow travellers in the Sangh Parivar, the country’s minorities — particularly its Muslims — have received the rough end of the stick. However, due to geopolitical expediencies, India has often been touted by some of its foreign friends as a ‘model’ democracy, despite stark evidence illustrating the fact that the Indian state has promoted patently undemocratic behaviour when it comes to minorities. Therefore, the comments from some of these allies castigating New Delhi’s rights record at the UN Human Rights Council’s recent Universal Periodic Review of India was a welcome display of honesty. At least 21 states felt India needed to do more to protect its religious minorities, with violence and hate speech targeted at minorities being a major concern. Others felt that India needed to improve the protection of freedom of expression and assembly, and that New Delhi was using counterterrorism laws against activists and journalists. Canada called for investigating violence “including against Muslims”, while Germany said it was “concerned” about marginalised groups. The Indian state’s blatant disregard for human rights is perhaps most painfully evident in held Kashmir, where it continues to treat the local population like a conquered people. Recently, All Parties Hurriyat Conference chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq expressed concerns over the Indian security forces’ “cold-blooded custodial killings of young boys”, while a former chief minister of the disputed region, Mehbooba Mufti, said the BJP was trying to stir up communal trouble in Kashmir to help its election prospects in Gujarat and elsewhere.
From here, the international community must keep following up with the Indian state on what it intends to do to allow Indian Muslims and other religious minorities to live in peace, with basic rights ensured. Moreover, the plight of Kashmir cannot be forgotten by the global community as it does business with India. The fact is that under the poisonous Hindutva ideology non-Hindus are relegated to a subhuman existence in the rashtra. Slowly but surely, this is what the BJP is working on, as it passes legislation to disenfranchise Muslims, and looks the other way when extremist Hindu gangs lynch Muslim citizens. The Indian reaction to the UN human rights review was that New Delhi is “committed to the highest standards of human rights”. We hope this commitment extends to India’s beleaguered Muslims, as well as the besieged Kashmiris.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2022