Far-right Hindu groups in India have been openly calling for violence against Indian Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, with many demanding a “repeat” of the 1984 genocide of Sikhs.
Nationalist populism: A Hindutva event in Haridwar last December and the cancellation of a visit to Punjab by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week have become widely discussed recently. These incidents have sparked calls for Muslim genocide and the spread of anti-Sikh hate speech, respectively.
- An event hosted by conservative Hindu groups last month caused uproar across India when clips from the event showed community leaders calling for open violence against Muslims.
- “Be ready to kill and go to jail,” one of them declared.
- According to Al Jazeera, at least one member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was present at the event.
- Meanwhile, several churches were vandalized on Christmas by Hindu nationalists who claimed to be stopping other Hindus from supporting “religious conversion under the garb of celebrating Christmas” and from “brainwashing children.”
- A Hindu vigilante group interrupted one of the many Christmas gatherings while yelling, “Death to missionaries.” Several statues of Jesus Christ were also smashed across the country.
- On Jan. 5, Modi’s planned visit to the state of Punjab was cancelled after a security breach left him temporarily trapped on a highway overpass. The incident soon sparked a wave of violent threats against Sikhs, the religious minority which makes up more than 50% of Punjab’s population.
- Many of these threats harkened back to the 1984 Sikh Massacre, which occurred after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
- Several Twitter users discussed the recent incident involving Modi. One even wrote that the massacre of 1984 “would be dwarfed in all memories” had “even a scratch” come to Modi. The death toll of the 1984 Sikh Massacre is disputed, but independent sources allege that up to 8,000 Sikhs were killed.
- Other pro-Modi netizens called for the hanging of Punjab’s chief minister.
History repeating itself: Despite calls for India’s Prime Minister and his party to denounce the violence, Modi has remained quiet.
- Modi’s silence on several occasions has been understood by several writers and political analysts to be tacit endorsement of violence.
- Though much of the anti-minority violence in India occurs at the local level, the quiet support from national leaders has bolstered local groups in the past.
- Modi has been considered by several critics as responsible for the riots and violence toward Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 while he served as its chief minister. The riots resulted in the targeted deaths of hundreds of Muslims, a minority in the state.
- The lack of accountability or acknowledgment of the 2002 riots is similar to that of the 1984 massacre.
Backlash and solidarity: Notable figures from Indian religious minorities have spoken out against the recent threats and violence, encouraging allies and each other to speak up and stay strong.
- Prominent Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah spoke out against the anti-Muslim sentiments in an interview with The Wire. “If it comes to the crunch, we will fight back… If it comes to that, we will. We are defending our homes, our family, our children,” Shah declared.
- “Sikhs have endured genocidal violence before. Now, threats of genocide against Sikhs are abounding again. Will leaders have the foresight and courage to speak up, before these hate-filled words turns [sic] into hate-filled atrocity?” Sikh scholar and activist Simran Jeet Singh wrote in an Instagram post.
Feature Image via Getty / Ritesh Shukla / Stringer