The rise in such violence fueled by Hindutva extremism is … changing the perception of India abroad with international bodies putting pressure on India to put a stop to these hate crimes.
Reports of mob lynchings of Muslims, Dalits, Christians, and other minorities on suspicion of endangering cows or forcing conversions of Hindus from their faith to another ‘foreign’ faith are becoming more and more prevalent.
While these violent atrocities against targeted minority groups are covered by some news sources or other media in India, such incidences have caught the attention of and have been condemned by international bodies. The rise in such violence fueled by Hindutva extremism is, therefore, not only threatening vulnerable, targeted groups but also changing the perception of India abroad with international bodies putting pressure on India to put a stop to these hate crimes.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) takes cognizance on the report of Tabrez Ansari’s lynching after reports of mob lynchings against Muslims, Dalits, and other minorities in India were highlighted at the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council Civil Society Network (UNSC).
Delhi-based journalist-turned-social activist, Saket Gokhale received an email from the UN seeking all the details related to Tabrez Ansari’s lynching case for a better understanding during the General Session of the UN Human Rights Council on July 1.
The email was sent from the UN’s headquarters in Geneva in response to a report that Gokhale had filed in June with the UN’s High Commissioner of Human Rights.
When asked by eNewsroom why he chose to submit a report about Tabrez’s lynching case in particular, Gokhale explained: “I couldn’t file a report on the total number of lynching cases that have taken place in India so far, as the template that the UNHRC offers demands only a single case…Since Tabrez’s case is the most recent case and the police definitely had a role in his death [this] made me go for this case.”
Then elaborating on the same, he said, “In this particular case, there is a proof (viral video) that clearly establishes his lynching as a hate crime. Tabrez, who has been accused of theft, was made to chant Jai Sri Ram while being brutally assaulted. Secondly, he was in police custody for four days before he breathed his last. Here the police…failed to provide the necessary medical treatment to a man who had been lynched. Also, interestingly, the police first filed the FIR for the bike theft, while they filed the lynching case two days later. Why? Didn’t the lynching take place on the same day as that of the alleged theft?”
When he explained why he decided to approach the UN, he shared, “The fact that the PM chooses to break his silence on Tabrez’s case after 10 days with a statement that is not reassuring for the minority or an MP garlanding those accused of lynching or the accused getting government jobs in some ways suggests that these unknown faces that comprise the lynch mob enjoy the impunity of the state.”
Gokhale admitted that this move was made in order to involve the international community and put pressure on India from an internationally recognised human rights body. He stated: “Human Rights is not just a constitutional right but an international right. India is one of the signatories of the Geneva Convention and is bound to safeguard the rights of minorities. Also, our PM prefers international voices over the voices of the opposition. Hence, I chose this route for creating pressure. It’s high time that internationally people get to know what’s happening in India. About time for the ministers supporting lynch mobs get their visas banned.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad, released a report in response to the murder of Tabrez Ansari after being violently attacked by a mob in Jharkhand.
In the report, numerous concerns in Jharkhand like its anti-conversion law and mob violence and lynchings against religious minorities are described. A special report was released by USCIRF in 2018 that examined and noted the difficulties that religious minorities face in India and other countries in South Asia.
In response to Tabrez’s murder, the USCIRF’s Chair, Tony Perkins, stated:
“We condemn in the strongest terms this brutal murder, in which the perpetrators reportedly forced Ansari to say Hindu chants as they beat him for hours. Ansari later died from the injuries he suffered due to this horrific attack. We call on the Indian government to take concrete actions that will prevent this kind of violence and intimidation by a thorough investigation of Ansari’s murder as well as the local police’s handling of the case. Lack of accountability will only encourage those who believe they can target religious minorities with impunity.”
In USCIRF’s most recent annual report released in April, India was again placed on its Tier 2 category for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard used to categorise “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
Catholic News Agency, a daily news agency with global coverage of the Catholic Church worldwide, reported in February 2019 on the rise in lynchings of Christians in India.
On reporting about the increase in violent attacks and public lynchings becoming more and more common, the agency’s report noted that international NGOs and India’s Catholic bishops are raising their voices in protest against mob violence.
On Feb. 27 of this year, Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal wrote, “The common man of the country is feeling insecurity in his own country due to the increasing cases of mob lynching.”
The Archbishop of Bhopal said that the victims of numerous mob lynchings occurred because the victims were accused of eating beef or harming cattle in some other way.
Further, Cornelio condemned what he said is a “mob psychology” that is in contrast to Indian law and to the rule of law in general.
In addition to lynching of Christians, The United Christian Forum and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) India recorded 29 “violent mob attacks” in January 2019 alone that targeted Christians.
According to the ADF, such attacks often involve a mob arriving at a prayer meeting or Christian gathering wherein the mob members violently beat up the attendees, including women and children. During the violent attacks, the mobsters shout abusive and harassing things. The pastors or priests are then usually arrested under false allegations of forced conversions.
The Catholic News Agency’s report included a statement the Executive Director of ADF International, Paul Coleman, who said: “While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Indian constitution, we nonetheless see Christians face persecution and denial of their fundamental rights,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International.
Coleman added: ”Sadly, the recent mob attacks are not isolated incidents but testify to what many Christians experience in India today.”
Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, released a 104 page report, “Violent Cow Protection in India: Vigilante Groups Attack Minorities”, on 18 February 2019.
The report focuses on lynchings that took place in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand – selected because of the large number of reported mob attacks there. It details 11 cases that resulted in the deaths of 14 people and also documents the government’s response.
The South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly, stated in reference to these hate crimes that:
“Indian police investigations into mob attacks are almost as likely to accuse the minority victims of a crime as they are to pursue vigilantes with government connections. State and national officials should be following the Supreme Court’s directives against mob killings instead of disregarding their human rights obligations.”
Further, in almost all of the documented cases, the police initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures, or were even complicit in the killings and cover-ups.
“Police face political pressure to sympathize with cow protectors and do a weak investigation and let them go free,” said a retired senior police officer in Rajasthan. “These vigilantes get political shelter and help.”
Meenakshi added, “Calls for cow protection may have started out as a way to attract Hindu votes, but it has transformed into a free pass for mobs to violently attack and kill minority group members.Indian authorities should stop egging on or justifying these attacks, blaming victims, or protecting the culprits.”
The recent report from the Human Rights Watch on violent crimes against religious minorities in India describes the use of communal rhetoric by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to spur a violent vigilante campaign against the consumption of beef and those engaged in the cattle trade. At least 44 people – including 36 Muslims – were killed in such attacks between May 2015 and December 2018.. Often times, the police stalled prosecutions of the attackers, while several BJP politicians publicly justified the attacks.
The police have filed complaints against the victim’s family members and associates under existing laws that ban cow slaughter, which has intimidated witnesses and families and made them afraid to pursue justice. As a party member of core internatinal human rights law treaties that prohibit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or religion and require governments to provide residents with equal protection under the law, the Indian government is obligatd to religious and other minoritiy groups and to fully and fairly prosecute those who committed acts of violence and discrimination against them.
At the annual National Prayer Breakfast in 2015, former U.S. President Barack Obama condemned acts of violence against religious minorities in India and stated that Mahatma Gandhi would be shocked by such atrocities his homeland famous for its pluralism.
U.S. presidents often discuss human and religious rights at this annual breakfast and the former president’s remarks came after reflecting on his recent visit to India. While praising India for its plurality, diversity, and other notable attributes, Obama noted that he and his administration felt disquiet about violent acts against religious minorities fueled by fanaticism and fundamentalism. He remarked:
“Michelle and I returned from India – an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs – acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”
While the former U.S. president did not specifically indicate that he was referring to any particular religious group, his remarks were interpreted as referring to the resurgence of Hindutva groups.
Article first published on Karavan India.