We Won’t Allow India to Be Turned Into a Republic of Fear: Indians in London Write to President Kovind of Human Rights Emergency
LONDON: Indian organisations based in the UK have expressed their “distress and concern” to President of India Ram Nath Kovind in a letter this Independence Day, about India “where Hindu supremacist gangs can lynch and rape freely and without any fear of punishment,where children, women and men are brutally killed for what they eat, who they love and simply for who they are.” The organisations have asked for an end to this anti-minority violence by the BJP government, dismissal of the Yogi government, and release of Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar who is still in jail.
“We will not allow India to be turned into a Republic of Fear,” they asserted speaking of the ‘human rights emergency’ in the country.
The letter was sent after a demonstration in London on India’s Independence Day:
The full text of the letter is as follows:
We the undersigned are extremely distressed and concerned that during the last three years, India has become a country where Hindu supremacist gangs can lynch and rape freely and without any fear of punishment, where children, women and men are brutally killed for what they eat, who they love and simply for who they are.
On this 70th anniversary of Independence, India has become a Republic of Fear where justice, democracy and the basic right to life lie in tatters, and the Constitution of Dr Ambedkar is violated daily with the government’s blessing. The fact that Prime Minister Modi, and those closest to him, have refused to condemn these incidents and focused instead on targeting any dissent as ‘anti-national’ and on whipping up exclusionary and violent Hindu nationalism is further cause for deep concern about India’s future.
PM Modi’s highly Islamophobic comments about retiring Vice-President Hamid Ansari, after he dared to suggest that Muslims felt increasingly insecure in India, are just one recent example.
We demand that the BJP government put an end to the violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits and indict not only the perpetrators of these horrific crimes but those, including senior politicians of the BJP, who have instigated communal and anti-Dalit violence.
We demand the immediate resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who has been one of the most virulent promoters of hate and has callously tried to evade responsibility for the deaths of nearly 70 children in a government hospital in his longstanding constituency.
We demand the immediate release of Dalit leader Chandrashekhar and his colleagues who were arrested in the wake of protests against the attacks on Dalits in UP.
Those who have been murdered in the current epidemic of mob lynching, which are inspired and directly orchestrated by Hindu far-right organizations closely linked to the BJP and its parent body the RSS, include 16 year old Junaid (lynched in Ballabhgarh, Haryana), 15 year old Swapnil Sonawane (lynched in Thane , Mumbai ), Zafar Hussein (lynched in Pratapgarh, Rajasthan), Maan Devi (lynched in Agra, UP), Laljibhai Sarvaiya (lynched in Ankolali, Gujarat), Pastor Sultan Masih (murdered in Ludhiana, Punjab), Pehlu Khan (lynched in Alwar, Rajasthan), Mohammad Akhlaque (lynched in Dadri, UP) Asghar Ali (Ramgarh, Jharkhand), Otera Bibi (Murshidabad, West Bengal) and many others.
While violence against Muslim and Christian communities has been increasing since the early 1990s, and upper caste atrocities on Dalits are a longstanding phenomenon, there has been a massive escalation in both since Modi and the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014. Emboldened by the victory of the BJP, Hindu supremacist gangs with links to the ruling party, or in some parts of India directly set up by the state, are the chief perpetrators of these abuses which are occurring unchecked. Some of the types of extreme violations affecting Muslims, Christians and Dalits include:
• Lynchings of Muslims and Dalits, and stripping, flogging and public humiliations. These terrible acts of violence are taking place across India, including in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and even in the outskirts of the national capital, Delhi. To start with the pretext was often that the victims have eaten beef, or slaughtered cows, or are transporting cows in order to slaughter them. The perpetrators are Hindu-supremacist gangs of so-called Cow Vigilantes. In the vast majority of cases, they have been neither punished nor condemned by the government. Instead the police have often charged the victims and BJP state governments have given tacit encouragement to the violence by making statements and announcing policies which call for harsh penalties for cow slaughter. While this violence continues, more recently there have been attacks which do not claim any motive other than sheer religious hatred. Christians are also under attack. Here the scale of violence is demonstrated by the figures for 2016 alone: 10 people were killed and over 500 members of the clergy or community leaders were physically attacked. The recent launching of a campaign against Christian conversions by Jharkhand’s BJP government, which misleadingly invokes Gandhi, appears to be an ominous prelude to more violence against the Christian minority.
• There is a horrifying rise in the rapes, mutilation, acid attacks and other forms of violence, often followed by murder, of women and girls of all communities, but Dalit women and girls and those from religious minorities are being specifically targeted. Among recent cases are two Muslim women raped and their relatives killed after being falsely accused of eating beef in Haryana and the gruesome gang rape of the recently buried body of a Muslim woman in UP. In 2016 alone, 34 Christian women including nuns were raped, molested or beaten. Some of the worst violence against Christians is taking place in Chhattisgarh which has long had a BJP government.
• Muslim or Dalit and so-called ‘lower-caste’ men in relationships with, or married to, Hindu or upper-caste women have been brutally attacked or murdered by mobs. In the case of Muslim men these murders are being instigated and justified by the baseless trope of ‘love jihad’ according to which Muslim men abduct and have relationships with Hindu women only to convert them to Islam
• Many areas, particularly in UP, but also elsewhere, have seen attempts at ethnic cleansing with threats and attempts to displace long-established Muslim communities. 2013 saw a pogrom in Muzaffarnagar UP which had a chilling similarity with the genocidal killings of Muslims which took place in Gujarat in 2002 when Modi was Chief Minister of the state. In Muzaffarnagar some 50,000 people were displaced, many were children. As human rights organisations have noted, the attacks in both Muzaffarnagar as in Gujarat were deliberately engineered by Hindu supremacists
• The appointment of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of UP, India’s most populous state, in March 2017 has further emboldened those perpetrating communal and caste violence in UP, which is also spilling over to other states. Adityanath has a record of hate speech and has several criminal cases pending against him. He stated in 2005: “I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu rashtra (state)” Since he became Chief Minister, Hindu supremacist groups and in particular the Hindu Yuva Vahini a violent youth organisation founded by him, have engineered a series of attacks on Muslims and Dalits. Recent incidents include burning and looting of Dalit homes by upper caste mobs in Saharanpur who shouted ‘the police is with us, the administration is with us’, and the lynching of an elderly Muslim man in Bulandshahr on the pretext that he helped a relative elope with a Hindu girl.
In the last few days, nearly 70 young children died in UP in a government hospital in Gorakhpur, which was Yogi Adityanath’s own constituency. We are appalled that the Chief Minister has tried to justify the recent deaths, saying it is ‘normal’ for children to die in August, and has ordered the police to organise Janamashtami celebrations on a ‘grand’ scale when people are in mourning for the avoidable deaths of so many children. Meanwhile, the central and UP government and their captive media are focussing on whether or not pupils in Muslim schools will recite Hindu nationalist slogans for Independence Day, and have outrageously called the children’s deaths a ‘distraction’ from these ‘real’ issues!
The cases mentioned above are only a small indication of what is now a human rights emergency with religious minorities and Dalits under attack as never before. But resistance is also growing, as in the protests led by women in Jharkhand after Asghar Ali’s murder, and the massive #NotInMyName demonstrations against mob lynching taking place in cities across India as well as internationally in London and elsewhere. On the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence, we will not remain silent and allow the forces of the Hindu right to transform India into a Republic of Fear.
South Asia Solidarity Group
SOAS India Society
Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance
Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK
Voice of Dalit International (VODI)
Together 4 Good