With the advent of social media, it is much difficult for rulers and politicians to speak lies and to hide information. In this regard, despite twisting the facts, under the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s religious bigotry has continued unabated against the religious minorities, especially the Muslims.
In this respect, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its annual report released on April 28, this year, recommended that the State Department should designate India as Country of Particular Concern (CPC), for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)”.
The independent US federal government commission also pushed for imposing targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the US under human rights-related financial and visa authorities.
The USCIRF proposed allocating funding to support civil society in India to create a monitoring and early warning system in partnership—to challenge hate speech and confront religious-based hate crimes—incitement to violence.
The USCIRF report said: “In December 2019, parliament passed the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act 2019]…a pathway to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants already in India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan by treating them as refugees fleeing religious persecution…The CAA would be even more problematic in conjunction with a nationwide NRC [National Register of Citizens], which could be modeled after the statewide NRC in Assam, and is a goal outlined in the BJP’s manifesto…this potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation and statelessness…cow protection had been promoted as a key issue by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)…Lynch mobs, often organised over social media, have attacked minorities—including Muslims, Christians, and Dalits…Since the BJP came to power in 2014, there have been over 100 attacks…Empowered by anti-conversion laws and often with the police’s complicity, Hindutva groups also conduct campaigns of harassment, social exclusion and violence against religious minorities…in August last year, India stripped the Muslim-majority occupied Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomy and imposed security measures, including restricting freedom of movement and assembly, cutting Internet and phone access, and arresting Kashmiri leaders, including religious leaders”.
It is notable that under the guise of coronavirus, Indian rulers have been imposing various kinds of restrictions on the Muslims. Modi’s government and the health ministry claimed that Muslims are spreading this virus. Availing this opportunity, Hindu extremists have set off a series of assaults against Muslims across the country.
In the recent past, Al Jazeera, The New York Times and Time magazine reported: “Muslims have been beaten up, nearly lynched, run out of their neighborhoods or attacked in mosques…Hindu extremists are scapegoating the country’s entire Muslim population for deliberately spreading the virus through “corona jihad, Indian hospitals segregate Muslim and Hindu coronavirus patients…In what many are calling a case of “apartheid” during a global pandemic…made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients. It is a decision of the government”.
In this context, besides Pakistan, Indian fundamentalist rulers accused the Tablighi Jamaat of spreading coronavirus through their congregations, held in India, while since the remote past, their preachers have been holding congregations so as to why this deadly virus did not emerge.
In this connection, the Indian news website “The Print.in.” pointed out: “COVID is an excuse to push Indian Muslims out of informal sector jobs…What Muslims are effectively facing now is a new form of concerted, deliberate economic marginalisation through blatant lies linking the community to the virus…Having been largely shut out of the formal sector, many Muslims depend on the informal sector and self-employment for their livelihood”.
While quoting the Gulf News, on April 28, 2020, “The Print.in.” indicated: India’s carefully cultivated Gulf policy has been at risk of unraveling over the past fortnight, with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], the Kuwaiti government, a UAE royal princess, and the Arab intelligentsia decrying hate speeches by Indian nationals accusing the Tablighi Jamaat of deliberately exacerbating the coronavirus pandemic as well as a crude tweet by a BJP MP on the sexual impulses of Arab women”.
Particularly, Al Jazeera wrote in April and May, this year: “Did those who commit crimes against humanity against Muslims in India and violate their rights think that Muslims will remain silent about these crimes and do not move politically, legally and economically against them? a statement by the general secretariat of the Kuwait Council of Ministers said…Earlier, on April 18, the OIC had issued a statement, urging India to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in the country…people in the Gulf countries felt outraged over the way Indian Muslims were being blamed for the coronavirus pandemic…. About 8.5 million Indians live and work in Gulf countries, a significant number of Hindus. In the past month, at least six Hindus working in the Gulf region have lost their jobs charged for their social media posts [Against the Muslims]…The level of hubris of the Hindutva fascists shocked people throughout the world, changing previously held opinions…Princess Hend al-Qassimi, a member of the UAE royal family, warned openly racist and discriminatory Indians in the Gulf that they will be fined and made to leave the country…there has been an unprecedented surge in Arabs openly criticising the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in India…several prominent activists in the Gulf region turned to social media to highlight what they describe as “ill-treatment” of Muslims…Many of them are decrying the killing of Muslims without reason, while others have said the assault by the RSS–the BJP’s parent body–on Muslims is unacceptable and have labelled it a “terrorist” group that should be banned in the Gulf… a civil campaign had been started to highlight the malicious propaganda by BJP and the RSS against Muslims and to decrease business relations with India. Kuwait has appealed to the OIC to intervene in India to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment in the country”.
Meanwhile, taking cognizance of Modi-led religious discriminatory policies, the White House has unfollowed Premier Modi on Twitter sending the micro-blogging site into a frenzy over a possible souring of ties between the world leaders. It also unfollowed the Twitter handle of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, the Prime Minister’s office, as well as, the Indian embassy in the US.
And responding to the US President Donald Trump’s claim that he had seen evidence which indicated the coronavirus emerged from a virology institute in Wuhan, China—Beijing deliberately spread COVID-19, World Health Organization’s (WHO) head of emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan repeatedly said on May 2, 2020, that “we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.”
Notably, COVID-19 which has affected the entire world does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language, or borders before targeting any country. Its elimination needs global unity. But, it is regrettable that Modi-led BJP, VHP and RSS, including other Hindu extremist parties are leading the racist Hindutva supremacists against the Muslims in the occupied Kashmir and across India. In fact, it is a primary part of Modi’s belief system to persecute the Indian Muslims. Nonetheless, India’s anti-Muslim bigotry has been internationalized.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations