ucanews.com reporter, New DelhiUpdated: July 24, 2019 05:27 AM GMT
Federal Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (center), a Muslim and member of the ruling, pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) practices yoga on International Yoga Day, June 21, in New Delhi. (IANS photo)
Leaders of India’s religious minorities have been shocked by a government minister’s claim that most reports of cow-related lynchings were fabricated.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the minister for Minority Affairs, said in an interview published online July 21 that the majority of mob lynchings were “concocted and fake.”
Christian and Muslim leaders, as well as rights activists, say he was in truth defending his government’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is accused of tacitly approving Hindu violence in the name of protecting the animal revered by orthodox members of their religion.
Naqvi “either has no knowledge of this matter or he is trying to shield goons in his party and allied outfits which are committing these very real crimes,” said Zafarul Islam Khan, a Muslim who heads the Delhi Minority Commission.
Surveys carried out by International rights organizations show that mob-lynching incidents have risen ever since the BJP came to power in 2014. Most victims were Muslims accused of cow slaughter or carrying beef, but victims also included socially impoverished Dalit people and a tribal Christian.
Khan said his office had “documented over 400 crimes” linked to cow protection since 2014. These included lynching, attacking people with weapons and beating them up on suspicion of consuming or carrying beef or slaughtering or transporting cows for slaughter.
Since 2015, at least 47 people have been lynched across India in cow-related incidents, according to Indiaspend, a data journalism website. More than 300 people were attacked, about 70 percent of them Muslims, and the rest mostly Dalit people or Christians.
Rights activist Ravi Nair said the minister should use his authority to prosecute those involved in the violence against minorities, “instead of trying to shield the goons.”
Nair, the executive director of the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center, wants the government to compensate the families of those killed.
He told ucanews.com: “Instead of “playing ostrich with his head in the sand, Naqvi should use his ministerial power to help the victims of violence.”
Christian leader A. C. Michael wondered how a federal minister “could term murders as fake and fabricated.”
He said Naqvi’s attempt was “a clear indication that BJP wants to shield the criminals. How could mob lynching be fake? Sadly, people behind such incidents are being emboldened by such irresponsible utterances.”
As a leader heading the federal Ministry of Minority it is his “constitutional duty to safeguard the interest of minorities instead of ridiculing them,” said Michael.
Michael V. Williams, a Christian activist, and leader based in New Delhi said the global community “is well aware of the facts” and the minister’s words “aren’t going to undermine the reality.”
The police under BJP governments “refuse to entertain complaints from victims of hate crimes”, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly stating that his government is committed to protecting the rights of religious minorities, said Williams.
India is the tenth “Most Dangerous Country to Live” in for Christians, according to the international monitoring group Open Doors in its latest annual report World Watch that listed 50 dangerous countries to live as a Christian.
Christians are a tiny minority comprising 29 million — or just 2.3 percent — of India’s 1.3 billion people. In contrast, Hindus form 966 million or 80 percent, while Muslims account for 172 million or 14 percent.