Ex­trem­ism, in­tol­er­ance on the rise in In­dia

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Mo­ham­mad Jamil Email: mjamil1938@hot­mail.com

A23-year-old Con­golese ýna­tional was beaten to death in South Delhi’s Vas­ant Kunj area. The Delhi po­lice de­tained one sus­pect on Satur­day morn­ing and also try­ing to get some cru­cial ev­i­dence af­ter scan­ning the CCTV footage in­stalled in a nearby lo­cal­ity. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, the vic­tim iden­ti­fied as M T Oliva was on his way home when ap­par­ently he had an ar­gu­ment with some men over hir­ing rick­shaw. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said that the sus­pects re­port­edly hit him with stones and bricks ly­ing around. He was later taken to a pri­vate hos­pi­tal where he was de­clared brought dead. With the African mis­sions al­leg­ing “racism and Afro-pho­bia in In­dia”, days af­ter the killing of a Con­golese youth in the cap­i­tal, the government got into dam­age con­trol mode on Wednesday and sought to as­suage their con­cerns on the safety of African na­tion­als.

In­dian lead­ers brag about shin­ing In­dia, demo­cratic In­dia and sec­u­lar In­dia ev­ery now and then to hide the dark face of its ex­trem­ism. Jawa­har Lal Nehru Univer­sity in­ci­dent is still haunt­ing In­dia and per­cep­tion of its sec­u­lar and demo­cratic face is fast erod­ing. The lat­est wave em­a­nat­ing from Jawa­har Lal Nehru Univer­sity was in fact linked to the con­scious­ness and self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion by few honor­able peo­ple of In­dia. The con­tro­versy had its ge­n­e­sis in an event or­gan­ised by stu­dents at JNU on the is­sue of In­dian-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir where In­dia had let loose the reign of ter­ror. Kan­haiya Ku­mar and his as­so­ciates were ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary on the charges of sedi­tion. While in cus­tody and on their ap­pear­ance be­fore the court the ed­u­cated youth was sub­jected to tor­ture by Akhil Bhar­tiya Vid­yarthi Par­ishad (ABVP) ac­tivists in the pres­ence of po­lice.

Hu­man Watch re­ports of­ten point out about the vi­o­lence against 150 mil­lion former un­touch­ables and mil­lions be­long­ing to other mi­nori­ties. Hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions reg­u­larly pub­lish re­ports about atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted on Chris­tians, Mus­lims and Dal­its. Kash­miris are, how­ever, the worst suf­fer­ers on earth, per­haps only se­cond to Pales­tini­ans. In June 1984, In­dian army had at­tacked the Golden Tem­ple with Tanks and ar­moured cars killing more than 2000 Sikhs though government count was 492. In an­other episode, with more killings and sub­se­quent flight of nearly 400 Chris­tians who walked over 300 km through moun­tains and forests to reach the Young men’s Chris­tian As­so­ci­a­tion camp in Bhubaneswar to take refuge speaks vol­umes about the plight of Chris­tians in Hindu-dom­i­nated In­dia’s eastern state of Orissa. De­spite con­dem­na­tion of vi­o­lence by Pope Bene­dict and Ital­ian government’s re­ac­tion, Chris­tians were be­ing forced to change their re­li­gion in Orissa.

In March 2016, In­dia had de­nied visas for a del­e­ga­tion from the US government agency, which is re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing in­ter­na­tional re­li­gious free­dom. The del­e­ga­tion from the US Com­mis­sion on In­ter­na­tional Re­li­gious Free­dom (USCIRF) was sched­uled to leave for In­dia from the US for a visit with the sup­port of the US State De­part­ment and the US em­bassy in New Delhi. How­ever, In­dia failed to is­sue the nec­es­sary visas, the com­mis­sion said. “We are deeply dis­ap­pointed by the In­dian government’s de­nial of these visas,” USCIRF chair­man Robert Ge­orge said in a state­ment. US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama dur­ing his visit to In­dia last year had nudged New Delhi to tackle is­sues that could di­vide the coun­try and hin­der its de­vel­op­ment. “In­dia will suc­ceed so long as it is not split along the lines of re­li­gious faith,” Pres­i­dent Obama told an au­di­ence in In­dia’s cap­i­tal city.

Ac­cord­ing to the Catholic Sec­u­lar Fo­rum, at­tacks rose more than 20 per­cent from 2014 to 2015. There have been 36 at­tacks on Chris­tians so far this year, rang­ing from churches be­ing de­stroyed to priests, nuns, and parish­ioners be­ing beaten, ac­cord­ing to the Chris­tian hu­man rights group In­ter­na­tional Chris­tian Con­cern (ICC), as well as four mur­ders of Mus­lim men by Hindu mobs over their con­sump­tion of beef. Chris­tian rights groups mon­i­tor­ing the vi­o­lence say the at­tacks have co­in­cided with a strong rise in Hindu na­tion­al­ism, which en­com­passes a broad spec­trum of In­dian po­lit­i­cal move­ments, but cen­ters around the idea that Hindu tra­di­tions and be­liefs should serve as a guide for the state and its cit­i­zens. The more ex­treme Hindu na­tion­al­ists are ac­cused of mount­ing the at­tacks. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and BJP turn a blind eye to heinous acts of the ex­trem­ists, if they do not con­done them out­rightly.

Meenakshi Gan­guly, South Asia Di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, said the at­tacks were be­ing car­ried out by vig­i­lante groups who claim to be sup­port­ers of the rul­ing party. They have taken up var­i­ous cour­ses of ac­tion, in­clud­ing try­ing to ban the con- sump­tion of beef na­tion­ally and try­ing to con­vert Chris­tians to Hin­duism, he said. “Re­li­gious mi­nori­ties, par­tic­u­larly Chris­tians and Mus­lims, are feel­ing in­creas­ingly vul­ner­a­ble,” Gan­guly said. About 80 per­cent of In­dia’s pop­u­la­tion of 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple are Hindu, Stark said, fol­lowed by about 12 per­cent Mus­lim, two to three per­cent Chris­tian, and un­der two per­cent Sikh. There are about 25 mil­lion Chris­tians in the coun­try cur­rently, but there’s been an in­crease in con­ver­sion among those of the low­est so­cial class, once known in In­dian culture as the un­touch­able caste, for whom Chris­tian­ity is ap­peal­ing, he said.

Thirty four mem­bers of the US Con­gress, in­clud­ing eight sen­a­tors and twenty six rep­re­sen­ta­tives from both par­ties sent a letter to Modi in Fe­bru­ary ex­press­ing their grave con­cerns about the in­creas­ing in­tol­er­ance and vi­o­lence mem­bers of In­dia’s re­li­gious mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties ex­pe­ri­ence. “We urge your government to take im­me­di­ate steps to en­sure that the fun­da­men­tal rights of re­li­gious mi­nori­ties are pro­tected and that the per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence are held to ac­count,” they wrote. “The Group of African Heads of Mis­sion have met and de­lib­er­ated ex­ten­sively on this lat­est in­ci­dent in the se­ries of at­tacks to which mem­bers of African com­mu­nity in In­dia have been sub­jected in the last few years. They note, with deep con­cern, that sev­eral at­tacks and ha­rass­ment of Africans in In­dia have gone un­re­solved without dili­gent pro­tec­tion and con­vic­tion of per­pe­tra­tors,” said Wolde­mariam in a sharply-worded note. He said the government should ad­dress the prob­lem of racism and Afro-pho­bia in In­dia. —The writer is a se­nior jour­nal­ist based in Lahore.

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