As ‘massive, systematic, and dangerous,’ Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, has termed the status of the ‘deteriorating rights situation’ in India.
“India risks becoming one of the world’s main generators of instability, atrocities and violence, because of the massive scale and gravity of the violations and abuses targeting mainly religious and other minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others. It is not just individual or local, it is systematic and a reflection of religious nationalism,” said Varennes in his opening remarks at a hearing on policy options for advancing religious freedom in India, organised by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington DC on 20 September, 2023.
“We receive multitudes of reports of attacks, rapes and lynchings of members of religious minorities, of national, state, and local religiously discriminatory policies and laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, the killing of cows, the wearing of hijabs and other practices restricted or prohibited which makes a mockery of freedom of religion and non- discrimination guarantees for religious and other minorities,” said in
In his speech, he cited a study which “noted a 786% increase in hate crimes against minorities between 2014 and 2018.”
He said: “A study noted a 786% increase in hate crimes against minorities between 2014 and 2018. It is also widely acknowledged that hate speech and content inciting violence against religious minorities in social media in India is widespread, increasing, vitriolic, involving incitement to violence and even calls to genocide, and largely left unchallenged by State authorities. Official silence over violent attacks and rhetoric is encouraging majority nationalist groups to even more brazen violence with a religious tint.”
He went on to say: “There is a discriminatory citizenship determination process in Assam, and potentially other regions of the country, and which could lead to millions denied citizenship, mainly from the Muslim minority community. This process must be seen in the light of the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act which provides a fast track to Indian citizenship for individuals unless they are Muslims. There are fears this may be part of an effort to create a religious and discriminatory test for Indian citizenship.”
“The disenfranchisement of millions, again mainly Muslims because of their religion, through the revocation in 2019 of the special status or autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. Now under the direct control of the central Indian government, discarding locally elected bodies, the right of political participation and representation, effectively stripping mainly Muslim and other minority residents of many of their previous political rights,” he added.
He also cited Manipur violence in his opening remarks:
He said: “The violence in Manipur is also a warning of the dangers of inaction. The danger is that left alone many more ‘Manipur’ may erupt. India ranks as eighth country at the highest risk of mass killings. This is mainly because of the targeting of religious and other minorities, and is symptomatic of large-scale scapegoating and dehumanising of Muslims and religious ‘others’ that could lead to a slide towards horrific atrocities.”