India’s democracy turns to fascism

Anti-Muslim rhetoric grows into denial of rights

December 27, 2019

“Preparation for a genocide is definitely under way in India.” Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, reported this at a congressional briefing in December. The rise of Hindu nationalism has been a cause for concern for religious minorities across India, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and lower-caste Hindus. Hate crimes against religious minorities have skyrocketed in the past few years, even as anti-democratic and unilateral actions have been taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to further increase marginalization and decimate  basic human and civil rights. Last month, India took another horrifying step towards outright facism, with the forced passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act that threatens the very core of India’s identity as the world’s largest secular democracy. 

Here's what you need to know: 

The Indian parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the latest anti-Muslim move in India.  CAA provides a path to citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring Muslim countries. Since Muslims make up at least 15% of the 1.3 billion population, the omission is very blatant. 

This move coincides with the institution of the National Population Register (NPR).  Opponents fear that this is similar to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was compiled in the state of Assam. The NRC only counted residents which were able to prove their (or their families) residency in India existed before 1971. This led to 1.9 million residents - mostly Muslim - being left off. Those not on the NRC list have been steadily arrested and moved into detention camps.

The Indian government has responded to protests that erupted following the passing of the CAA by physical and digital means. Internet and phone usage was suspended in many of the Muslim-majority regions. Protests have turned violent with many clashes with the police. At least 34 deaths were reported, hundreds were injured, and at least 1,500 protestors have been arrested. 

The rise of Hindu nationalism (or Hindutva) has been a cause for concern for all religious minority communities across India. Hindutva is redefining Indian culture by aligning it with a warped interpretation of Hindu history and values. Since the election of PM Modi in 2014, hate crimes and hate speech towards Muslims have increased. UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, expressed concern over the “increasing harassment and targeting of minorities — in particular, Muslims.”

But the rise in violent Hindu nationalism has not been limited solely to Indian Muslims. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported a consistent downward spiraling of religious freedom for Christians and other religious minorities as well, while squarely placing the blame on the Modi government. USCIRF has argued that Prime Minister Modi "has done little to provide justice for victims of large-scale past incidents of communal violence, often caused by inflammatory speeches delivered by leaders of Modi’s party".

We must stand against abuses of any kind towards marginalized people. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We have a responsibility to stand up for human rights and freedoms globally.  

What can you do? 

Stand up against human rights violations and religious discrimination in India! Ask your representatives to:

  1. Make an immediate public statement about the crisis in India. Urge the government to allow peaceful protests, release the arrested protestors, lift any communications blackout and repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act and stop the National Population Register.
  2. Urge various governmental entities - including the State Department - to pressure the Indian government to allow peaceful protests, release arrested protestors and lift any communications blackout.
  3. Sponsor a congressional resolution condemning the Indian government’s  religious persecution and disenfranchisement, lead by Prime Minister Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party.



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