INDIA: Hate speech, hate crimes and religious minorities
The London Story (08.01.2024) – The NGO London Story based in The Netherlands has just published a compilation of news updates about the human rights situation India in December 2023. The list is not exhaustive but includes a selection of pertinent incidents – both hopeful and worrisome. See their archives as well.
Hate Crimes and Hate Speech against Minorities
- OnDecember 4, Hindu supremacists reportedly attacked a 15-year-old boy from the Muslim community as he was returning from school in Uttar Pradesh state. The attackers filmed the incident and shared it on social media.
- OnDecember 5, three people reportedly beat to death a man from the Muslim community in West Bengal state. The attackers had accused the victim of being a thief. This raises questions about the state’s ability to protect citizens’ right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) and about the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
- OnDecember 14, the United Christian Front, an Indian human rights group working with Christian minorities, published new data that shows two Christians are attacked daily in India on Via their helpline, they recorded at least 687 incidents of violence in the 334 days of 2023 so far. This raises questions about the state’s ability to protect citizens’ right to life (Article 6 ICCPR) regardless of their religion (Article 2 ICCPR).
- OnDecember 6, Hindu supremacist leaders met to celebrate the demolition of the Babri Mosque at an event organised by the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal. Hindu supremacists extrajudicially demolished the Babri mosque in 1992. At the event, the speakers engaged in hate speech. For instance, one speaker reportedly said: “This is not the country of Gandhi anymore who preached of offering another cheek if someone slaps you at one, this country is changed. If a Muslim tries to slap you, cut his hand and give it in another hand.” These incidents raise questions about the state’s ability to prohibit advocating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR).
- OnDecember 16, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah reportedly justified the 2002 Gujarat Riots that killed at least 1044 people, claiming that they taught Muslims “a lesson”. Shah reportedly said: “In 2002, there were riots and thereafter Modi saheb taught a lesson to not repeat the act. Have there been riots thereafter? The rioters were taught such a lesson in 2002 that to date no one dares to cause riots in ” The incident constitutes a senior minister advocating for religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR). The United Kingdom concluded that Narendra Modi was “directly responsible” for the systematic violence.
- OnDecember 17, the Rajasthan Police arrested one person for reportedly raping a 20-year-old Dalit (“untouchable”) woman in a bus on December 9. Such a gender- and caste-based atrocity raises questions about the state’s ability to protect its citizens’ rights regardless of their caste and
- OnDecember 17, police arrested a teacher and principal of a government-run school in Karnataka state, as they allegedly forced Dalit (“untouchable”) students to manually clean a septic tank. This violates the prohibition of “manual scavenging” under India’s domestic law, i.e. the manual cleaning of human faeces and sanitation systems, which Dalits have historically been forced into, and which violates human dignity and constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment (Article7 ICCPR).
- OnDecember 29, Karnataka police arrested a man in a 31-year-old rioting case, which took place ahead of the extrajudicial demolition of the Babri Mosque by Hindu supremacists in 1992. The Karnataka Police commented that the arrest is part of routine efforts to address long-pending cases.
Religious Freedoms and Minority Rights
- OnDecember 1, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Union Minister Giriraj Singh called for closure of “illegal madrasas [Islamic schools]” in Bihar state, alleging that they pose a “threat to the internal security of the state and the nation.” In his speech, he also claimed that the “people of Bihar” will face “a major threat to their wealth and their faith” without action against Islamic schools, thereby circulating dangerous The incident may constitute a ruling party lawmaker advocating for religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Article 20 ICCPR), and for violations of the right of parents to “choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (Article26 UDHR).
- OnDecember 1, the Uttar Pradesh Police filed a case against 42 people and arrested nine of them for allegedly luring poor and tribal people to convert to Christianity. Several BJP-ruled states have passed laws criminalising professing one’s religion and converting, in violation of the right to family life (Article 23) and right to freedom of religion (Article 18) in the ICCPR. Such laws have also emboldened vigilante groups, who engage in extrajudicial violence against people from religious minorities in response to alleged violations of these laws.
- OnDecember 4, a video circulated showing newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Balmakund Acharya ordering the closure of all meat stalls run by the Muslim community in his constituency in Rajasthan state. The BJP had won the election in Rajasthan state just days before and Acharya was not yet sworn in. On December 6, he apologised for his actions. This violates the right to work under Article 6 ICESCR, which includes the right of everyone to “the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts”.
- OnDecember 8, a public school reportedly dismissed a teacher in Uttar Pradesh state from duty after Hindu supremacist groups claimed that “he did not respond appropriately” to a student’s Hindu religious greeting. The principal issued an apology and promised “measures to prevent such incidents in the future.” This may violate the right of everyone to “manifest his religion or belief in workshop, observance, practice or teaching” (Article 18 ICCPR).
- OnDecember 8, the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) reportedly announced it would end the 30-minute break allowed for Muslim lawmakers to perform Friday prayers. A break for Friday prayers has been the norm for over 60 years. This may violate the right of everyone to “manifest his religion or belief in workshop, observance, practice or teaching” (Article 18 ICCPR).
- OnDecember 25, a Hindu supremacist group held a rally in Tripura state, demanding that tribals who converted to Christianity should be removed from the “Scheduled Tribes” list, which guarantees certain reservations and benefits. Such a demand may violate the right to freedom of religion (Article 18) in the ICCPR.
- OnDecember 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi organised Christmas celebrations in his residence. Following this, approximately 3200 Christians, among them one MP, signed a statement protesting against community leaders who participated in the celebrations, citing “continued attacks and vilification” of the Christian community by the BJP
- OnDecember 26, authorities in Madhya Pradesh state reportedly demolished the homes of persons accused of having harmed a cow. However, the police claimed that the demolitions were in connection with a separate case of illegal construction.
Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob