The Derailment of Minority Rights in India

India today presents an inevitable slow shipwreck where religious minorities risk clashing with the majority Hindu population. According to the Indian Constitution, India is a secular state where religious minorities enjoy the same rights as the majority group. Article 15 (1) of the Constitution declares that the state shall not discriminate against citizens on the basis of religion or race. The Indian Penal Code (1860) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) obligate the executive to provide all residents with protection from communal violence.

On paper, India’s legal framework, with the exception of a few laws – such as Article 48 of the Constitution, which requires the executive to ban the slaughter of cows and anti-conversion laws – guarantees religious freedom as well equal rights for all citizens. Practically, the executive and the judiciary of India circumvent all these laws and turn a blind eye to the plight of minorities in the country. Communal violence has become common in secular and pluralistic India, with Muslims as the primary target, followed by the Christian community. The Jahangirpuri violence is the latest incident in a series of events including riots, hate speech and questionable anti-Muslim legislation.

Read more: India unable to talk about minority rights abuses anywhere: Pakistan

Why are minority rights ignored in India?

The riots in Jahangirpuri, a locality in Delhi, began when a Hindu religious procession celebrating the birth of the Hindu god Hanuman entered a Muslim neighborhood and stopped in front of a mosque where Muslims were performing Ramadan prayers. Violence breaks out and riots ensue. Two days later, the BJP-controlled Municipal Co-operation began demolishing homes and shops at the site of the riots, rights activists cite the entire effort as political victimization of a minority community already disproportionately affected by the violence of Jahangirpuri.

Videos of the Hindu procession chanting religious slogans and raising swords outside the mosque offer an eerie and chilling insight into India’s growing Hindutva nationalism and majoritarianism gripping Indian society. Just two years before the Jahangirpuri violence, Delhi had been plagued by some of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in the capital’s history. The February 2020 communal riots were sparked by Hindus, encouraged by local BJP leaders; the majority of the dead and wounded were Muslims. The state apparatus in both incidents was complicit and allowed Hindu mobs to wreak havoc in Muslim-majority neighborhoods.

According to available data, from 2016 to 2020, there were 3,399 cases of communal violence in the country. In 2020 alone, around eight hundred cases of communal riots occurred. A full-scale anti-Muslim riot every few years has become the norm in India. The recent escalations are, in fact, a direct consequence of the BJP’s popular anti-Muslim narrative, where the party’s rhetoric blames India’s Muslim Mughal rulers for ending the golden age of empire. Indian. According to a shocking Human Rights Watch report published in 2019, the BJP government has failed to prosecute and prevent mob attacks against religious minorities perpetrated mainly by BJP supporters and sympathizers.

Digital media has played a key role in defaming some Muslims as foreigners unworthy of Hindu-like rights, while others are descendants of Hindus who were forcibly converted by Muslim invaders. The reconversion movement is a direct product of this reflection. Mainstream news media, anti-Muslim songs, and dubious internet discourse explaining imaginary history and imaginary victimization have generalized Islamophobia in the country. Anti-Muslim hatred has become so commonplace that the discriminatory citizenship law has failed to elicit condemnation from the majority of Indian society.

Read more: Pakistan Supreme Court protects minority rights in new judgment

Gregory Stanton, the director of Genocide Watch, has already sounded the alarm over an impending Muslim genocide in India. In releasing its 2022 annual report – the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom – just like the previous two years, recommended that the US government designate India as a “country of particular concern.” The report identifies how all non-Hindu communities, including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits, continue to suffer from religious intolerance encouraged by the ruling party. Muslims in India remain the most economically disadvantaged community.

The path to follow

The average per capita expenditure of an Indian Muslim is only Rs 32.66 per day; the illiteracy rate among Muslim communities is forty-two percent, with the lowest labor force ratio. Muslim representation in parliament has fallen from 9% forty years ago to just 4% in 2014. This figure is particularly worrying given that Muslims make up 14% of the entire Indian population. Along with the Muslims, Christians in India again became extremely vulnerable to vigilantism and religious violence perpetrated by Hindu mobs. The Religious Freedom Act, an anti-conversion law, is notably used to harass the Christian community.

In one incident in February 2021, a mob attacked a church and assaulted twenty-five worshippers. Additionally, the mob registered an FIR against the Church, alleging conversions of Hindus, conveniently using anti-conversion laws. The pastor was arrested as the attackers roamed freely. During the 1990s, anti-Christian violence was at its peak. Hindu Christian communal violence again reached alarming levels from 2008 to 2009. The on-and-off years saw some stability, only for violence to erupt again in 2015. According to the World Watch List 2021, India is ranked tenth in the list of the fifty countries where a Christian is the most difficult.

Read more: NCHR report on poor working conditions for minorities draws serious attention

According to the Religious Freedom Commission report, anti-Christian hate crimes increased exponentially in 2021 compared to previous years. Reported incidents of anti-Christian violence jumped 80% from 2020 to 2021. A total of 504 incidents of violence against Christians, perpetrated mostly by Hindus, were reported in 2021. These incidents range from murders to physical violence , the destruction of Churches and social boycott of Christian families. It is important to note that Christians represent only 2% of the total population of India.

The five hundred incidents of violence against such a small minority is a staggering figure that shows the dire situation of Indian Christians. The realities on the ground show that the rights of minorities will be further restricted in the future. Only the global community can convince the Indian government to abandon its tacit policy of prosecuting religious minorities.

The author is a political scientist and assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.