Islamophobia is taking its most lethal form in India, with almost 250 million Muslims in the country becoming a persecuted minority, said Professor Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s leading public intellectuals and Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He was speaking at a Congressional Briefing “Worsening Hate Speech and Violence in India” on 9 February co-hosted by 17 organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch, Indian American Muslim Council, International Christian Concern, Dalit Solidarity Forum, and Hindus for Human Rights.
“The assault is taking other forms as well, including a general attack on independent thought and the educational system primarily directed against Muslim victims, but by now expanding beyond. That’s apart from India’s terrible crimes in Kashmir, those crimes have a long history. They’ve been sharply escalated by Modi’s rightwing Hindu nationalist regime,” Chomsky said.
Also speaking at the event, John Sifton, Washington, D.C.-based Asia Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, said the “greatest threat” to India’s Constitution today was the Modi government’s “promotion of India’s majority religion, Hinduism, at the expense of the country’s secular foundation and its religious minorities. Worse still, there are growing concerns over the independence of Indian institutions. The Election Commission, the judiciary, and the National Human Rights Commission are all facing increasing scrutiny under implications of bias.”
“These deterioration’s are threatening India’s underlying identity—the very idea of India as a diverse, pluralistic nation-state—and they harm India’s global standing as a functioning, rights-respecting democracy. In every opportunity that presents itself, US officials, citizens, members of Congress, should forcefully communicate concerns about these deterioration’s to the Indian government,” he added.
Speaking on the increased mobilization of Hindu supremacists as upcoming state elections in India draw nearer, Angana Chatterji, who is a scholar at the University of California at Berkeley and a co-founder of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir said: “At the onset of critical state-level elections in India, Hindu nationalist leaders are energizing their constituents with calls for massified violence against Muslims and promises to deliver on hate. Minority communities and allies are urgently concerned that, should a BJP victory fail to materialize in state elections, aggravated antipathy to Muslims will inspire Hindu nationalists to take up arms.”
“Journalists have been exposed to all kinds of dangers – police violence, reprisals instigated by local officials/ministers, illegal detentions, slapping them with sedition, and so on,” said Annapurna Menon, a doctoral researcher and visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster.
Rights activist Harsh Mander said India’s “immense tragedy” was that people “steeped deeply in the Hindu supremacist ideology that spurred Gandhi’s killing are in fact ruling India today. India’s leaders are more determined than ever to push the country down this horrific path of hate, fear, and blood.”