(APP) — A Voice of America (VOA) blog has highlighted the growing fear and insecurity among Muslims under the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying the uptick in hate crimes has alarmed many human rights groups, which call for “decisive” government measures to protect the country’s minorities.
“The government has failed to prevent or credibly investigate growing mob attacks on religious minorities or marginalized communities, often carried out by groups claiming to support the government,” Jayshree Bajoria, a research consultant with Human Rights Watch (HRW), was quoted as saying in the report.
Citing analysts, the report charged the BJP of encouraging this trend by publicly supporting attackers against minorities.
BJP leaders have often “made inflammatory speeches against minority communities and promoted Hindu supremacy and ultranationalism, which has encouraged further violence,” Bajoria told VOA.
In March, the United Nations expressed concern about the targeting of minorities in India and has warned Indian officials of the consequences of their “divisive policies.”
“We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities, in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis,” Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. human rights chief, said in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
In recent months, it was pointed out that rights groups have reported incidents of mob attacks, killings and sectarian violence against Indian Muslims.
In April, a 34-year-old Muslim man in Delhi’s Tihar jail was brutally beaten before a jail official reportedly engraved a Hindu sign on his back.
In March, a Hindu mob carrying wooden sticks and stones invaded a Muslim family’s house in New Delhi. The mob accused the family of playing cricket instead of celebrating Holi, a popular Hindu festival.
The family was reportedly told to “go to Pakistan” if they wished to play cricket.
Muslims make up about 14 percent of country’s population. The report cited Muslim activists as saying their community has long been marginalized, targeted and discriminated against.
But recent violent attacks against Muslims have further raised fears among them, they say.
“I was born here and grew up on the roads in Delhi, and never felt as insecure as I feel now,” Tameez Ud Din, an alias used by a Muslim engineer from New Delhi, told VOA.
“The adoption of Hindutva ideology by the current government is to be blamed for the rise in attacks. We [Muslims] are killed in the name of cow protection and the attackers get political protection. I don’t feel safe anymore.” Ud Din said.
Muslims frequently become victims of lynchings and other killings over transporting cattle, or allegedly selling, carrying, consuming or slaughtering cows, rights groups said.
A recent HRW report said “at least 44 people, including 36 Muslims,” were killed in cow-related violence from 2015 to 2018.
Last month, a video went viral on social media in which a 68-year-old Muslim man, Shaukat Ali, was seen surrounded by a Hindu mob who abused him, accused him of selling beef and later forced him to eat pork.
“Shaukat Ali was forced to eat pork. Those who were beating Ali knew that … nobody will face any consequence” under the BJP government, VOA cited Asaduddin Owaisi, a prominent Muslim politician from Telangana state, told reporters after the incident.
Some analysts echo Owaisi’s concerns and blame the government for espousing a Hindu-leaning ideology, which has been responsible in fueling violence against Muslims.
Hindu nationalism, locally known as Hindutva, is driven by calls for racial and cultural superiority of Hindus in India, the report said.
“These vigilante groups doubtlessly feel that the authorities are on their side because there have been comments and actions, largely from elected BJP officials, aimed at showing Hindu nationalists that the government takes cow protection seriously. In some cases, BJP leaders have even publicly justified the attacks,” HRW’s Bajoria said.
Members of Indian National Congress (INC), the opposition Indian political party, also blame the BJP government of embracing hatred-based politics.
“This increase in communal violence against Muslims is a result of BJP’s mentality,” Pawan Khera, a spokesperson for INC, said.
“They have divided the country on the basis of religion,” he told VOA.
The Indian government, however, rejects these accusations.
“This is a bogie raised by our political rivals and groups which are inimical towards the BJP,” G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesperson, told VOA.
Some experts, according o the report, charge that BJP’s alleged lack of action could translate to its support of these actions.
“This Hindu nationalism or state-sponsored anti-Muslim sentiment is a dangerous game that will divide the country,” Ashok Swain, an Indian-born professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University in Sweden, was quoted as saying.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra “Modi has made it India vs. Pakistan, or Hindus vs. Muslims, or rest of India vs. Kashmiris,” he said.
Kamal Mitra Chenoy, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, holds a similar view.
“Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, has termed Muslims as ‘termites’ for the country, and all the minorities are scared of this statement as they know there will be consequences,” Chenoy said.