The risk of Genocide in India increases as hate speech rises
Hate speech is reaching epidemic proportions in India as government leaders remain silent in the face of an impending tragedy. The World Kashmir Awareness Forum has raised the alarm in our previous posts; we do not say this to engage in hyperbole – genocide remains a clear and present threat against Muslims not only in Indian Occupied Kashmir but throughout India.
We will not remain silent in the face of a persistent threat and will do everything possible to prevent tragedy and loss of human life. Genocide is not something that happens; it is a process, often state-sanctioned, and once the process proceeds past a certain point, it becomes difficult to stop.
Us vs. Them – the early stages of genocide
For genocide or mass killing to occur it requires people to target minority groups as something less than human. The easiest way to divide people is to instill an Us vs. Them mentality within the population. An example of this type of rhetoric: We are good, and they are evil. They want to hurt or destroy our way of life, but we will preserve it.
As you can see, this type of language is not all that dissimilar from the overheated political discourse found in almost any country. When it becomes dangerous is when it breaks the bond between groups. When politicians start saying, ‘we will never compromise’ or ‘we will never negotiate,’ the stage is set to weaponize law and culture against a minority or ethnic group.
In India, the division and demonization of Muslims was a feature of Modi’s BJP election campaign. The BJP used this rhetoric to ride to power and it is a weapon that they have used to keep it.
Politicize and weaponize everything
Cultural symbols are the first to become weaponized. Whether it is things like flags or attacking religious iconography, the goal is the same- to reinforce the supremacy of the dominant group.
We can see this present with the banning of Muslim students from wearing the hijab at Indian universities. Such an action would violate the Indian Constitution’s protection of religious expression, but when those in power do not care for the law – the Constitution becomes a dead letter and discrimination continues unchecked.
Prime Minister Modi has shown contempt for not only Indian Occupied Kashmir’s autonomy but the very Constitution he swore to uphold. By abrogating Article 370 and 35A – Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status ended and it served as the launching pad of widespread discrimination and human rights abuses. We have seen indefinite detention, torture, or indiscriminate killing by occupation forces increase in frequency since 2019. It is clear that the Indian government has been testing the waters to see what they can get away with and there is no reason to think they are going to stop now.
Unchecked hate speech
Dehumanization is the most essential part of a genocide. It is the part when ordinary people stop seeing minority groups as human beings, and as something less than human. It is not the presence of hate speech alone that cause tragedy to occur, but when it goes unchallenged and even encouraged by the state, genocide becomes a real possibility.
Recently, Hindu monks, such as firebrand Yati Narsinghanand, called publicly for “…two million Muslims [to be] killed,” the response from law enforcement was timid. Mr. Narsinghanand even joked that the officer who was tasked with telling him to cool his rhetoric would be on his side when the killing came.
It is up to government officials to uphold the law and maintain the peace. Yet with each month that passes, the Indian government does less and less to stop the hate speech and has even begun encouraging it.
The Indian government has been increasing support for films that support BJP ideology. Nowhere is this clearer than the release of the Kashmir Files – a biased film that examined the Pandit exodus from Indian Occupied Kashmir in 1990s. The government waived taxes for patrons to see the movie and even gave police officers time off to see the film.
The film does not seek to explore the context of the events of that year, but it vilifies India’s 200 million Muslims. It is a one-sided film designed to appease partisans and hardliners.
Sanjay Kak, a Kashmiri Pandit journalist who himself fled in the 1990s, said the movie does not allude to the persecution of Kashmir’s Muslim community either before or since.
“One of my relatives was shot dead… barely 300 meters away from our home,” Kak told AFP.
“The movie only talks about the exodus part, and only refers to the failure of the state but not the things that led to the situation.”
When the media becomes propaganda for the ruling party and independent media can no longer hold those in power accountable, violence is around the corner.
Radicalization leads to mobilization
Gregory Stanton, founder of Genocide Watch, outlined ten steps for a genocide to occur . Once the state engages in hate speech and reinforces this through propaganda, the killing is not far away.
India stands on the brink of genocide against Muslims. The stages we have examined have taken years to get to this point, and while genocide is not inevitable, the longer hate speech and propaganda are allowed to flourish, the more likely mass killing will occur.
Genocide requires a buy-in from the civilian population, or at least its willingness to look the other way. Once that happens, it will escalate very quickly.
Mass killings are planned, the population is divided, and targets are identified. People may be displaced from their homes en masse, or they may be forcibly relocated to camps or ghettos. At that point, the state, or paramilitary organizations may begin systematically killing people wholesale.
Awareness and transparency are the only solutions
Genocide is not inevitable, but we do not have the luxury of hoping for the best. The situation in India has advanced to the point where mass killing remains a very real possibility. Bringing awareness to those who peddle hate speech and documenting the crimes of the perpetrators to the world is the only way to stop the disaster. Not only must more people be made aware of this situation, but people in power, both government and NGOs must be mobilized against the forces of hate.
We must remain vigilant, and we will keep calling out the hate speech of those who peddle it. We will not stop until the threat of violence and genocide recedes.