Religious minorities in India 'attacked with impunity'

Reports by rights groups show victims are often blamed as BJP moves to create Hindu-only nation
Religious minorities in India 'attacked with impunity'

Students' Federation of India activists burn effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief minister of Assam in Guwahati on Jan. 8 after India's lower house passed legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims. The bill covers select groups including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. (Photo by Biji Boro/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, New Delhi
India
February 22, 2019
Religious and ethnic minorities in India continue to face violence at the hands of Hindu groups that support the federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has failed to prevent or credibly investigate growing mob attacks on religious minorities and marginalized communities, said the report released in New Delhi on Feb. 19.

Some critics have even accused Modi of turning India into "a republic of hate."

The BJP's political leaders, since forming the federal government in May 2014, "have increasingly used communal rhetoric" that spurred violence from vigilante groups, it said.

They have also vowed to protect cows, a revered animal in Hinduism.

"Mob violence by extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that they traded or killed cows for beef," according to the report.

Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people — 36 of them Muslims — were killed across 12 Indian states.

"Over that same period, around 280 people were injured in over 100 different incidents across 20 states," the report stated.

It said there were 254 documented incidents of crimes targeting religious minorities between January 2009 and October 2018, in which at least 91 people were killed and 579 injured.

About 90 percent of these attacks were reported after the BJP came to power in May 2014, and 66 percent occurred in BJP-run states.

Muslims were victims in 62 percent of the cases, and Christians in 14 percent. These include communal clashes, attacks on interfaith couples and violence related to protecting cows and religious conversions.

Christian groups in the country have been complaining of increased attacks on their people and institutions by pro-Hindu groups, who are working to turn India into a Hindu nation, often with the tacit approval of the administration.

"A country's government must understand that it should take care of the people irrespective of cast, creed or religion," said Bishop Alex Vadakumthala of Kannur in the southern state of Kerala.

Hindu organizations use violence against religious minorities with impunity, "dictating what to eat and how to pray. It's a worrying situation," the bishop added.

He told ucanews.com that minority groups, especially the socially and economically disadvantaged Dalits and tribal people, are living in tumultuous times as they feel subjugated by Hindu groups.

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"One wonders whether, after 71 years of independence, minorities have been freed from the clutches of ruthless subjugation," Bishop Vadakumthala said.

Meenakshi Ganguly, the rights group's South Asia director, told media while releasing the report that instead of acting against violence, the government has been trying to justify the attacks on minorities and has even blamed the victims themselves.

Last November, Alliance Defending Freedom, a global Christian rights group, released a report claiming that in first 10 months of 2018 there were 219 incidents of targeted violence against Christians by Hindu groups.

"Out of these 219 incidents, 192 are of mob attacks in the form of threats and intimidation. Women and children are most affected by these incidents, with 160 women and 139 children reported to have been injured," the report said.

Hindus make up 80 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. Muslims, the largest religious minority, comprise 14 percent or 172 million people. Census records show there are just 28 million Christians, constituting 2.3 percent of the population.

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