Attacks against Muslims since the start of Ramadan are part of a process of genocide unfolding in the world’s largest democracy, says CJ Werleman

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When India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, secured a second term for his Hindu nationalist agenda in 2019, human rights experts sounded the alarm for a looming genocide – one threatening the existence of 200 million Muslims and 30 million Christians living in the world’s largest democracy.

“There are early signs and processes of genocide” in both India and Kashmir, Dr Gregory Stanton – who warned of early signs of genocide in Rwanda, five years before it took nearly one million lives in 1994 – has observed. He believes that a Hindu religious gathering held in Haridwar in December 2021 “was especially aimed at inciting” such a genocide.

The horrors that have taken place against Muslims since the start of Ramadan suggest that genocide is well underway in India.

The country now experiences daily mob lynching attacks, along with widespread calls for mass rape and mass murder from religious leaders and right-wing politicians, with the Government signalling its tacit approval in refusing to condemn the violence and hateful rhetoric against Muslims.

Social media reports of terrified Muslim families fleeing their homes and villages are as commonplace as videos showing thousands of sword-wielding Hindu extremists gathered outside mosques across the country, chanting anti-Muslim slogans and threatening bloodshed.

Since the start of Ramadan, Hindu nationalists have, through their actions, laid down a blueprint for genocide, and it goes like this. Hold hate rallies dressed up as religions processions to incite attacks against Muslims, mosques, and Muslim-owned businesses and property. When Muslims retaliate, capture it on video and share on social media, saying that ‘Hindus are under attack’ – before calling the police, who arrive on the scene and arrest Muslims and/or participate in the violence against them.

This blueprint was followed in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami on 10 April, prompting the country’s opposition law-makers to initiate action against rising anti-Muslim violence across the country. Haryana Congress Leader Aftab Ahmed described it as a “dangerous norm” to the National Commission for Minorities.

“Religious processions, including those on Ram Navami, were also taken out in the past, but back then you would have never seen youth brandishing swords or stopping outside mosques for 15 to 20 minutes to deliberately raise provocative slogans,” he said. “Those slogans, by their very nature, are to incite violence.”

He also accused the police of deliberately turning a blind eye to the violence. “It all started in Uttar Pradesh and now it has spread to other states as people in power there are now imitating the UP model,” he added.

Videos shared on social media during the past week show police rounding up and beating innocent Muslims under the pretext of ‘quelling communal violence’. Equally disturbing is footage showing authorities bulldozing Muslim-owned homes in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, the site of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, in which 2,000 Muslims were murdered on the watch of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

“If Muslims carry out… attacks, then they should not expect justice,” said Home Minister Narottam Mishra on 12 April, falsely accusing Muslims of starting the violence during Ram Navami.

In other words, these discriminatory home demolitions are being used to collectively punish Muslims for responding to violent attacks committed by pro-Government Hindu extremists, leaving already vulnerable Muslim families homeless – a move condemned by Amnesty International as a violation of international human rights law.

Ashhar Warsi, a Madhya Pradesh-based lawyer and human rights defender, has accused India’s ruling party of “disproportionately punishing people of one community without following any due process”, warning that this “sets a dangerous precedent”.

“The message is: if you question or challenge us in any way, we will come for you, we will take your homes, your livelihoods and take you down,” he added.

These demolitions meet the textbook definition of ethnic cleansing and constitute yet another tool in the Indian Government’s explicit intent to make life so unbearable for non-Hindu minorities that they feel as though they have no other choice but to flee the country.

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Silence and Complicity

President Modi, who was banned from entering the US because of his role in Gujarat’s 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, has neither uttered a single word of condemnation nor made a call for calm.

He similarly remained conspicuously silent when pro-Government supporters within the Hindutva movement openly called for genocide in Haridwar several months ago.

His silence prompted 13 opposition leaders to release a joint statement last week, slamming the Prime Minister and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the wave of anti-Muslim hate crimes surging across India in the wake of the recent Hindu festival. 

“We are shocked at the silence of the Prime Minister, who has failed to speak against the words and actions of those who propagate bigotry and those who, by their words and actions, incite and provoke our society,” they said. “This silence is an eloquent testimony to the fact that such private armed mobs enjoy the luxury of official patronage.”

The report also pointed to recent speeches made by several BJP law-makers, including one at which the crowd chanted: “When Muslims will be killed, they will shout Ram’s name!” 

For now, the number of Muslims and Christians murdered by Hindu mobs during the past few months counts only in the dozens – but the events of the past few weeks strongly suggest that these numbers are likely to climb into the hundreds and thousands during the remainder of the year, if not far higher.

Genocide is a process. It does not have a single starting point. In the 10 stages identified by experts, ‘persecution’ is stage eight and ‘extermination’ is stage nine. Based on recent events, it is reasonable to conclude that India has reached stage 8.5 – only a half-point away from what could be the world’s largest ever humanitarian crisis by a long shot.

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