By Beyza Binnur Donmez and Shuriah Niazi
(AA): Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday accused the Indian government of adopting laws and policies that “systematically discriminate against Muslims and stigmatize critics of the government.”
HRW’s report came days ahead Feb. 23, which marks the first anniversary of the violence in New Delhi, where 53 people were killed, 40 of them were Muslims. The violence came after protests started against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in 2019 that excludes Muslims.
The law granted citizenship to at least six minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan immigrated to India until Dec. 31, 2014.
“Instead of conducting a credible and impartial investigation, including into allegations that [ruling Bharatiya Janata Party] BJP leaders incited violence and police officials were complicit in attacks, the authorities have targeted activists and protest organizers,” the report said.
“The authorities have lately responded to another mass protest, this time by farmers, by vilifying minority Sikh protesters and opening investigations into their alleged affiliation with separatist groups,” it added.
When Anadolu Agency contacted BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain to comment on the HRW Report 2021, he declined to respond by saying, “I have not seen the report.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP “has not only failed to protect Muslims and other minorities from attacks but is providing political patronage and cover for bigotry,” said HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly.
Although violence in New Delhi followed peaceful protests by Indians of all faiths, BJP leaders “attempted to discredit protesters, particularly Muslims, by accusing them of conspiring against national interests.”
Also mentioning the protests of farmers against new farm laws in November, HRW accused the BJP leaders, their supporters on social media, and the pro-government media, of blaming the Sikhs, another religious minority.
“Following violent clashes on January 26 between the police and protesting farmers who broke through police barricades to enter Delhi, the authorities filed baseless criminal cases against journalists, ordered the internet to be shut down at multiple sites, and ordered Twitter to block nearly 1,200 accounts, including of journalists and news organizations, some of which Twitter later restored,” it said.
Since Modi came to power in 2014, various legislative and other actions have been taken, legitimizing discrimination against religious minorities and enabling violent Hindu nationalism, HRW said.
“These actions violate domestic law and India’s obligations under international human rights law that prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or religion, and require the governments to provide residents with equal protection of the law,” HRW said.
“The Indian government is also obligated to protect religious and other minority populations, and to fully and fairly prosecute those responsible for discrimination and violence against them,” it added.
Rights group seconds HRW Report 2021
Kavita Krishnan, an activist, and secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said in response to the HRW Report, “It is an acknowledgment of what is happening in India. I have no doubt that the government is targeting minorities and speaking the language of bigotry every day.”
“There are a number of such cases that we see on a daily basis where Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians are targeted,” she said, blaming Modi’s BJP government.
“In the last six years, it has increased exponentially under Modi government. It is very much state-sponsored and the latest one is the interfaith marriage which has made a marriage of Hindu woman with Muslim and Christian very difficult,” she said.