PRESS STATEMENT | Until there is Real Change, Pressure on India should not Relent
A PRESS STATEMENT
(For Immediate Release)
Blasphemous remarks by two BJP leaders which even by standards of certain media segments have been deemed “too offensive to be repeated” have emerged from the backdrop of a growing culture of Islamophobia in India. Treatment of Muslims has been particularly dismal as communal tensions have markedly risen under the watch of the BJP government. Muslims have routinely been subjected to violence at the hands of lynching mobs over allegations such as consumption of beef, or over suspicion of contracting interfaith marriages. Mosques have not been spared from demolitions, as a militarized stranglehold over Occupied Kashmir, which is majority-Muslim region, gets ever tighter.
Intolerant, provocative and inciteful statements have in recent years characterized a public discourse that undignifies Muslims, a significant minority that is integral to the Indian society. Fanatical Hindutva supremacist leaders frequently try to outdo each other, by threatening to unleash violence against Muslims, and in their disparaging of Islamic beliefs and faith symbols. The world is witnessing an incremental curtailing and a denial of the freedom of religious expression among Muslims, across Indian states.
Until now, statements of condemnation against such tendencies from Muslim-based organisations, human rights observers and individuals have largely been ignored or met by dismissive responses from Delhi and by BJP officials. What has changed this time around is the diplomatic fall out which India is now facing, with leading Muslim states issuing strong statements that have prompted action from the BJP, and retractions from the sacrilegious hate-mongers. The BJP government has scrambled placatory statements largely seen to protect economic interests, especially with the Gulf countries.
The India that once led the bulwark of non-alignment, spearheading an alternative tack to a polarized Cold War world, needs to return to its moorings of inclusive values as part of its claimed “civilizational heritage.” India should therefore do much more than just proffer apologies. Even within the existing laws in India, hateful and inciteful statements as well as the denigration of beliefs and symbols of faith cannot be protected and pass as “free speech.” Rule of law requires the isolation and holding accountable those who propagate discord and fray the unity of the country. However, a selective application of such laws against minorities in the name of “the protection of public order” and “the promotion of peace” while ignoring same offences by BJP-aligned figures will only entrench the notion that the ruling party is only concerned with a self-serving agenda of narrow nationalistic interests.
We commend the Muslim countries that have led the way in defending the honour of the Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam and his illustrious companions which forms part of Muslim dignity and identity. India’s responsiveness has revealed to the world that a change in India’s policies towards Muslims and other minorities will take place only with concerted effort, especially when economic interests are at stake. Until there is real change, pressure on India should not relent.
JUSA Executive Committee
07 June 2022