Modi accused of using Islamophobic rhetoric to build political base

Hate speeches have proliferated due to Indian prime minister’s failure to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, Congressional briefing told.

Speakers at a Congressional briefing co-sponsored by a group of 17 human rights and interfaith organizations accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “using anti-Muslim, Islamophobic rhetoric to build his political base.”

Because of Modi’s failure to condemn and act against anti-Muslim bigotry, hate speeches by leading religious and political figures aimed at inciting violence against Muslims had proliferated in recent weeks, they said at the Jan 12 briefing in Washington, DC, according to a  press release from the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).

As the leader of India, Modi has an obligation to denounce speeches made at a gathering of Hindu monks in Haridwar, India, last month inciting violence against Muslims, said Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, “Yet, Narendra Modi has not spoken against it.”

Alleging that Modi had a long history of presiding over mass violence against Muslims, beginning with the Gujarat riots of 2002, Stanton accused the Indian leader of using  “anti-Muslim Islamophobic policies to build his political base” after becoming prime minister.

READ: Indian American Muslim Council asks Modi to stop persecution of Muslims (January 5, 2021)

He cited the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir state’s autonomous status and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that excludes Muslims as examples of these policies.

“The idea of India as a Hindu Nation, which is the Hindutva movement, is contrary to the history of India and to the Indian constitution,” Stanton said. “The Indian constitution is specifically set up to make India a secular country to allow for equality between all religions. It was not aimed at making a Hindu Nation.”

“That the participants [at the Haridwar gathering] would openly urge Hindus to emulate the violence against Rohingya Muslims and boast about it in the days afterwards in the media is illustrative of the atmosphere of bigotry that pervades these groups,” said Govind Achayra, India/Kashmir Specialist with Amnesty International USA.

Calling the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) as a “bigoted law (that) specifically discriminates against Muslims seeking citizenship,” he said, “When you combine it with the CAA, the NRC is weaponized against Muslims in India.”

“Because of the bigotry of these laws, India stands to create the biggest statelessness crisis in the world which will create unimaginable suffering,” Achayra said. “And of course the vast majority of those affected would be Muslims.”

“Once an organization has the support of the state machinery, or if the state machinery is willing to look away, it does not remain a fringe organization,” said Anas Tanwir, a lawyer for the Indian Supreme Court and founder of the Indian Civil Liberties Union.

READ: Sunita Viswanath: India’s democracy is in grave danger; state repression of minorities, dissenters at all-time high (April 8, 2021)

“The speeches made in Haridwar are an explicit call for genocide against Muslims by religious leaders who are close to the ruling party, the government,” said Sunita Viswanath, Executive Director of Hindus for Human Rights.

Also speaking at the briefing was Amina Kausar, an IT entrepreneur who was one of the many victims of Bulli Bai, an app that was designed by Hindu extremists to “auction” and harass vocal Muslim women.

“The sheer humiliation of being put up for ‘sale,’ and called a ‘Bulli Bai,’ a vulgar slang phrase implying a woman is a prostitute, is hard to describe in words,” she said.

These online abusers are not fringe elements, Kauser said alleging many of them are backed by Modi. She urged “US government to take note of the systemic violence that Indian Muslim women are subjected to.”

Besides IAMC, the briefing was cosponsored by Amnesty International USA, Hindus for Human Rights, Genocide Watch, 21Wilberforce, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Center for Pluralism, American Muslim Institution, International Society for Peace and Justice, Association of Indian Muslims of America, and the Humanism Project.

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