Threat to India’s minorities no longer an ‘internal issue’

©Gulf News

Recent events in India have raised worldwide concern as the tempo of violence against the country’s 200 million Muslim minority by Hindu hooligans armed with swords and guns has increased. So much so that the OIC, the largest organisation of the Muslim world headquartered in Jeddah, an organisation that had been quiet earlier had to make a very blunt statement.

In condemning the heinous events in Delhi which resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent Muslim civilians and terming the riots as ‘ani-Muslim’, the OIC stated that it “condemns the recent and alarming violence against Muslims in India, resulting in the death and injury of innocent people, and the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties.” The OIC also asked the Modi-led BJP government to “bring the instigators and perpetrators of anti-Muslim violence to justice and to ensure the safety and security of all its Muslim citizens and the protection of Islamic holy places across the country.”

The OIC’s call was soon followed by the UN rights chief whose offices sought to join efforts challenging the legislation to India’s controversial citizenship bill (CAB) in the country’s highest court. The bill which was designed to target Muslims making it easier for religious minorities from three neighbouring countries to get Indian citizenship — but not if they are Muslim — was the spark for the recent deadly riots in New Delhi.

More than 40 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the worst sectarian violence to rock the capital in decades. Muslim property was ravaged and burnt throughout the city. BJP politician Kapil Mishra was reported as ordering the police to clear the demonstrators warning that he would come back on the streets with his followers and eliminate them if no action was taken.

Such demonstrations have become commonplace across the Hindu-majority country since the CAB law was approved by parliament in December, with many Muslims being the unfortunate victims.

Organised violence

Iran also cautioned India with the Iranian foreign minister deploring the riots which continued in full view of the police who stood by. Foreign Minister Javid Zarif condemned the “wave of organised violence against Indian Muslims” in the Delhi riots. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was even more direct when he lashed out against “the massacres” of Muslims in India after communal riots in New Delhi left at least 33 dead. “India right now has become a country where massacres are widespread. What massacres? Massacres of Muslims. By who? Hindus,” he stated.

India apparently is not heeding such advice and committed to continue its present course. In fact, it more or less rejected the OIC statement on the violence calling it ‘selective and misleading.’ A spokesman for the Indian Foreign Office added that the statement by the OIC was ‘irresponsible.’ The Indian Foreign Office also added that “The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.”

Under any other circumstances, they would have been justified. But in view of the recent clampdown of Kashmir’s eight million Muslim inhabitants, the abrogation of bills and treaties that had previously guaranteed the minorities living in India a fair share, it can no longer be considered an internal matter. And certainly not when it comes to the fate of over 200 million Indian Muslims who stand at a precipice today.

The rise of Hinduism and the increasing saffron terrorism by Hindu militias against minorities that have begun sprouting in different parts of the country, while the government seems to turn a blind eye has many of them worried about the future of their country.

Many Indians who stand in opposition to the citizenship law promoted by Narendra Modi’s nationalist government charge that it is biased and is another step in a campaign to turn 200 million Muslims in India, which is home to the second-largest population of Muslims in the world, into second-class citizens, or even make them stateless, or even sent to detention camps. Among those who strongly oppose the BJP led bill are influential Hindus and scholars who see this as a death knell to India’s secular democracy.

The Arab and Muslim world is slowly rising to awareness of the internal threat to India’s minorities and is no longer willing to shrug them off as an internal issue.

—Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena

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