India was once known to be the largest democracy in the world due to its religious and ethnic diversity. The country is home to almost 80 percent Hindu population, while religious minorities comprise 20 percent of its population. To deal with this religious diversity, policymakers of the country embraced secularism as the core principle of its government which advocates and promotes religious tolerance and inclusivity. However, the country’s history is replete with instances of persecution of its minorities.
BJP’s rise to power in India has augmented Hindu nationalism throughout the country, with attacks on religious minorities increasing with the covert support of the federal government since Modi’s rise to the federal government in India. Hindu extremism has been nourishing in India for decades.
The first and most prominent and significant substantiation of this violent extremism was seen at the event of the independence of India and Pakistan. A huge number of Hindu and Muslim populations were forced to migrate across the border. This migration faced violent attacks from both sides. Almost a million Muslim refugees were killed and a huge number of women were raped.
Even after the independence, the Hindu extremism did not remain restricted to the Muslims of India only. Other religious minorities of the country, including Sikhs and Christians, also faced violent attacks as a result of Hindu nationalism. This demonstrates that the Nazi conscience, which expresses apathy towards the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities and a lack of respect for their lives, has been adopted by the Hindu extremists.
The most frightening factor in these violent attacks is the backing of the Indian state of the Hindu extremists. The political narrative of Hindutva condemns the past invasions of the subcontinent by Muslims. Their hostility towards Muslims predicates on this past invasion of the subcontinent. However, they also consider all religions other than Hinduism as foreigners, wanting to establish “Akhand Bharat” – a country exclusively for Hindus. Due to this narrative, Hindu nationalism has reached the level of violent attacks and rapes of religious minorities.
The Indian National Congress has always been the flag bearer of secularism in India and has also been responsible for the independence of the country. However, the party conducted one of the most violent operations, Operation Blue Star, against the Sikh nationalists in 1984. The operation lasted for almost 10 days and resulted in the assassination of 554 Sikhs, including non-militants. The event entailed a series of attacks on the Sikh community and a genocide against them.
As per the Human Rights Pulse reports, almost 3000 Sikhs were murdered within the next 3 days of the operation. Moreover, the Sikh genocide continued till the 1990s which resulted in the assassination of tens of thousands of Sikhs of India along with the forced disappearance and kidnapping of a huge number of Sikhs. This resulted in the migration of numerous Sikh families to other countries.
The hatred against the Sikh community continues in India. Recently, a Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Najjar was killed in Canada. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, has blamed the Indian government for the killing of the Sikh leader. Moreover, it demonstrates the hatred of Hindu extremists and the BJP government towards the Sikh minority.
The BJP, the political party ruling the country, holds a horrific history of anti-Muslim attacks. The party and its militant wing, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), were behind the notorious Babri Masjid attacks. The incumbent Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, became the Chief Minister of Gujrat in 2001. Under his rule, hundreds of Muslims were killed in the Gujrat riots in 2002. Homes of almost 20000 Muslims were destroyed and over 150000 people were forced to migrate. This event brought Modi to prominence on national and international levels for the first time. The United States banned Modi from entering the United States citing law on violations of religious freedom formed in 1988 due to this Muslim massacre.
In 2019, the Indian government revoked the special status of Indian Occupied Kashmir which endangered the human security in the region and is deemed as a move to change the demography of the region by many analysts. This is another attempt by the Hindu extremist government against the Muslim minority. A host of incidents of mob lynching of Muslims and Dalits by cow vigilantes have been reported under the Modi government.
The Christian community is also bearing the brunt of the rising Hindu extremism in India. As per reports, almost 525 attacks on Christian communities in India have been reported in India in the first 8 months of 2023. Around 249 churches have been destroyed within 36 hours by the Hindu chauvinists in Manipur state of India. Recently, a shocking video surfaced on the internet in which two Christian women were seen being stripped and paraded naked in Manipur after being gang-raped. According to the Genocide Watch, violent attacks against Christians occurred in 23 states in 2023.
Violent Hindu extremism is not limited to India anymore. The country’s diaspora in other countries is also involved in attacking Muslims and Sikhs and spreading hate speech. Many Western leaders have used this Hindu extremism for their leverage. Donald Trump, in 2015, exploited Hindu extremism for his benefit in his election campaign by stating that India and Hindus would have a friend in the White House if he got elected. Modi also campaigned for Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.
Moreover, the Hindu extremists held demonstrations in the US and UK with posters of Modi and Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, in support of their disturbing acts of demolishing the homes of Muslim activists. In 2022, a Canadian Hindu nationalist, Ron Banerjee stated that he supports the killing of Sikhs and Muslims in India because they deserved it. Gregory Stanton, who predicted the Rwandan genocide, warned the US Congress, in a briefing, about a possible genocide in India.
Freedom in the World report by the Freedom House has also lowered the ranking of India to partly free from being “free.” Rising Hindu extremism will not only hurt the integration and unity of India but will also impinge the peace of the other countries of the world. Violent Hindu extremism can also intensify regional fractions on the Kashmir issue and other such matters. The United States and other flag bearers of human rights and equality should pressure the Indian government to ensure religious tolerance in the country. Otherwise, Hindu nationalism could destabilize the region and result in the genocide of religious minorities in the region.
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