Weaponization of Hindu festivals to attack Muslims another sign of India on “road to genocide,” say Indian activists
Activists warn that hate crimes are being carried out against Indian Muslims on a massive scale during Hindu festivals, indicating a genocidal climate against Muslims in India.
Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2023) – Hindu supremacists weaponizing their religious festivals to launch massive attacks on Muslims across India is a sign that the nation is on “the road to genocide,” said Indian human rights activist Kavita Srivastava at a Congressional Briefing on April 19 titled, “The Weaponization of Hindu Festivals to Target Muslims.”
“No Hindu festival happens without troubling Muslims now, as if that has become part of the protocol of a festival. These mobilizations are unprecedented… it’s happening in every North Indian state,” said Srivastava. “And let us get it straight that it is being done with impunity. There’s nobody who’s stopping them.”
Beginning on March 29th, Hindu extremist mobs participating in processions for the Hindu festival of Ram Navami attacked Muslims, along with their homes, businesses, and places of worship in at least six Indian states, including Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Gujarat, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. Muslims have reported incidents of mosques being planted with saffron flags and arsoned by mobs, home invasions, stone pelting, mob beatings, and sexual harassment of Muslim women.
A similar outbreak of violence was reported during Ram Navami in April 2022, leaving Muslim areas devastated by the Hindu militant attacks, followed by police brutality and arbitrary arrests of Muslims under fabricated charges of violence. In several states, the government bulldozed Muslim-owned homes and businesses as “punishment for rioting.”
“We are not on the edge of genocide. The genocide has started,” Srivastava added.
Shaheen Abdulla, a reporter for the Indian news portal Maktoob Media, stated that violence during the Hindu festivals Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navami have followed a pattern to spark violence deliberately over the past two years.
“[Hindu processions] actually wait for a call for prayer where Muslims come and assemble, and [the mob] makes sure that they are heckled. Sometimes they attack them with the guns that they are carrying,” he said.
In the aftermath of the mob violence, Abdullah added, police brutality would begin.
“[Police] go to each Muslim house, they barge in… most of the time it is done by the male cops. When the women try to stop their children from being detained, police also attack them,” he said.
Abdulla further said that, “the perpetrators don’t just get away. They are in the public sphere making comments about how violently they attacked Muslims and they would be making all these claims of how they are going to do it again and again.”
“If you try to quantify all the news about hate crimes and anti-Muslim crimes happening in India, all the resources would exhaust because of the [sheer] amount of violence that is happening in each state,” he added.
Sharjeel Usmani, a prominent activist, raised concerns over news media labeling these cases of Hindu mob violence against Muslims as “clashes” or “riots.”
“The world has not seen this kind of mass radicalization ever in terms of population – the sheer numbers with regards to weaponizing the Hindu festivals,” Usmani said. “First the Muslim citizens are attacked unprovoked, and when the violence ends, the police comes in and then they again attack. So it’s a double attack every single time… the media, the police, the state and even the Indian academia portray it as a clash between two parties, which it has never been.”
“When the police are not in between and people are surrounded from all sides, you have to try to defend your life. You don’t want to get burnt alive or killed, and so you have to do everything that you can to save your life. And then this defense that the Muslim groups do to protect themselves, to save their lives, is then portrayed as a clash, and then arrests are made,” Usmani added.
Asif Mujtaba, a prominent activist, stated that Muslims who police have unlawfully detained in the aftermath of mob violence are trapped in difficult legal battles.
“What Muslims suffer at the moment of violence is nothing as compared to what they suffer afterward,” he said. “For all these Muslims whose houses have been pelted, whose mosques have been burnt, whose shops have been vandalized and looted and burnt… [now they] have been picked up and then they have to fight a legal battle.”
He added that India’s Hindu majority must take responsibility to combat Hindu extremist radicalism.
“The change has to come from the Hindu side, because they are testing patience in whatever capacity. It doesn’t matter in what way the Muslim community behaves, they will be subjected to violence,” he said in conclusion.
The briefing was co-sponsored by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign, 21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, Center for Pluralism, International Commission for Dalit Rights, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, The Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.