Second day of global summit on preventing genocide of Indian Muslims sees panelists call upon international community to pressure India
Washington, DC / Montreal / London / The Hague / New Delhi, February 27-28, 2022
Preventing genocide of Muslims in India is an urgent need and the international community must rally to pressure Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to ensure the safety of India’s Muslims, genocide experts, human rights defenders, scholars and journalists from around the world said. Participating in various panel discussions on Saturday, the second day of the three-day virtual conference, India On The Brink: Preventing Genocide, panelists said hate speech and violence, fueled by social media, was prepping India’s masses to commit a genocide of the Muslims.
British journalist-author Yvonne Ridley lauded the hijab-wearing students in Karnataka state who have challenged the ban on the hijab. “I personally salute the Muslim girls for their courage and the girl who shouted Allahu Akbar in her belief in her God for inspiring people around the world,” she said, referring to Muskan, the student whose video of responding to Hindu extremists stalking her has gone viral globally. “Lioness Muskan disrupted the narrative of Muslim women as oppressed, weak and submissive.”
Speaking at a panel titled, “Indian Muslim Genocide: A Clear and Present Danger,” Ridley said there was a “genuine concerns” of threat of a genocide of India’s Muslims, as has been voiced lately by Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch.
“India was even warned before Gujarat 2002 of the genocide of Muslims but the warnings were ignored even then,” Ridley said. “Under Modi and his Hindu nationalist party BJP, India is once again on the brink of genocide. There is a fear of Muslims’ existence and millions of Muslims are facing the threat of losing their citizenship.”
She said journalists that deliver Modi’s propaganda were “delivering hate speeches” and were “ruining India’s reputation globally.” Ridley said the British government should “stop sending weapons to India” as they use it on Kashmir’s civilian population.
Indian Dalit rights activist Kancha Ilaiah likened Russian President’s demonization of Ukraine’s people to the demonization of Muslims and Dalits under Modi’s right-wing rule. A Hindu religious leader’s call to kill two million Muslims, made at a religious conclave at Hardiwar city in December, had created fear in the minorities, he said.
Speaking at a panel titled, “India’s Nuremberg Laws: Legalizing Genocide,” Nadim Khan, convenor of United Against Hate, an Indian human rights platform, said there was a “deep state working in India that is Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit.” The victims of the crimes of lynching themselves are accused as criminals, he added.
“The laws and courts have been discriminatory in these cases. The burden of proof is now on the victims,” he said. Khan provided several examples of how the courts have appeared to be biased against Muslims. He cited the case against a Muslim in Gujarat, who is still in prison, without evidence, on charges of serving beef at a wedding.
“We have seen the saga of discrimination and hatred in the cases of lynchings and Love Jihad which gives a free hand to Hindu right-wing goons,” he said. The Assam government was refusing to renew the contracts of judges of the “foreigner tribunals” who did not send many Muslims to the detention centers, Khan said.
Prof. Apoorvanand, a noted Indian human rights defender, said, “Muslims and Christians are systematically being attacked in India by the use of laws, hate propaganda and street violence. The laws are used to illegalize the food habits of Muslims, Dalits and Christians that affect them adversely in economic terms.”
He condemned the so-called “Love Jihad” laws that virtually criminalize marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women and placed the onus to prove innocence on the accused Muslim men. “The idea is to push Muslims in ghettos and disconnect them from the rest of the society. Many states are trying to bring laws that would further marginalize Muslims.” Muslims were also being denied the use of public spaces to pray. “They want to expel all the Muslim symbols from public spaces.”
He said the “Hindu society at large and Indians in general were used to the idea of isolation and considering other human beings as “inferiors” since it is a hierarchical society that believes in the idea of seeing others as polluters… What’s happening in India is serious and the world must stop it before it’s too late.”
Muslim student activist Afreen Fatima said Muslims and Christian were being isolated in India. “Muslim men are depicted as savages trying to abduct the Hindu women and this propaganda is spread further by the media,” Fatima said. “In the post-colonial country, India, it is ironic that imperial and colonial ideas are being used against its minorities.”
It was “worrying and problematic” that laws against Muslim-Hindu marriages, triple talaq and cow protection were being legislated. “We need to think about the ways in which the society can be de-radicalized and these laws not considered okay.”
India’s news media had become a “Radio Rwanda, that is not only furthering the agenda of Hindutva but it has become a lynching mob itself.”
Participating on a panel titled, “Whatsapp As A Weapon, Hate Speech And Violence,” Ram Bhat, a Fellow at the London School of Economics, said television news depended on trending news on social media “that can be easily manipulated. Any violence that becomes symbolic feeds the profit-making technology companies.”
Added Avinash Kumar, former Executive Director of Amnesty International India, technologies and tools such as WhatsApp and Facebook were “used for spreading propaganda.”
Suchitra Vijayan, New York-based attorney and author, said the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 and in Delhi in 2020 “give us the way to think about the condition of society that leads to a point where such violence occurs.” Such violence was “not only inflicted on the bodies of people but also on the Constitution of India.”
Vijayan said surveillance was being implemented in unconstitutional ways, she said. “The biggest terror is the state terror. Technology is only a mediating tool. We need to think beyond it to understand the genealogy of the violence. Once mass conditioning takes place, genocide takes place and it requires generations to overcome its effects.”
Participating in a panel titled “Can International Law Prevent The Genocide Of Indian Muslims?,” Irene Massimino, a prominent global activist on genocide prevention, said there were two purposes of International law: accountability and crime prevention.
“The people at the grassroots have the right and power to prevent persecution of the minority,” she said. “International laws can help prevent future violence and humanitarian crimes.” Media accountability was “important for preventing genocide.”
Katherine Southwick, a prominent jurist with a vast portfolio of working on human rights, said international laws can prevent genocide in India “but only when the Indian government wants to implement international laws.” She said it was “incumbent” on India’s people to recognize that persecuting a minority “will have ripple effects on the rule and law of the entire country. Burma has a very long path now as it let it happen.”
Burmese Rohingya leader Tun Khin said international law had failed to “prevent genocide in Rwanda and Myanmar.” The UN Security Council “did nothing” when Rohingya and Uighurs genocide took place. “The international community will have to take it seriously that Muslims be saved from the genocide. Ad hoc action on international law can not be taken if the state does not comply with international law.”
Khin said, “First they denied our identity and then denied the right to have citizenship, the right to have lands and even babies.” He blamed Facebook for spreading propaganda and hate speech against the Rohingyas.
Participating on a panel on “Role Of Gender In Preventing Genocide,” Elisa Von Joeden-Forgey, a professor in holocaust and genocide studies at Stockton University, said a genocide cannot be prevented without involving women. “Taking women’s suffering seriously and hearing them helps us study the genocide and prevent it,” she said. “We need to remember the suffering of Bosnian women who faced it and how they bravely stood for justice [that] helped them pursue justice and stand against injustice.”
“We have seen from the studies of genocide, that women’s approaches are very different when it comes to taking decisions as they play multiple roles,” Jordan-Forgey said. Hindu and Christian women should ally with Muslim women without conditions. “There is a need to build the narrative of truth through formal and informal education. Everybody in the world should think how they can contribute to protecting Muslims in India so that those who are planning to do something should feel the pressure.”
Velma Šarić, president of Post-Conflict Research Center that publishes school curriculum’s about the Holocaust and exposes war crimes, said peace building education and youth awareness was “very important” for preventing genocide. This can be done through “social media, art, and photography through civil society.”
“Art can be used to sensitize people and especially youth by giving training to them by professionals. We are looking for the people’s heroic stories where people helped each other during such horrific times,” she said. “It takes a lot of time in post-violence time to rebuild the society so people need to be aware that war is not what you see on television, it is much worse. It affects a whole generation and the next generation altogether. Society can never rebuild itself ever again.”
Speaking at a panel, “Assam’s Forgotten Genocide: Revisiting Nellie Massacre of 1983,” Maiko Kimura, a professor at Tokyo’s Tsuda University, said ever since over 3,000 Muslims were killed by Assamese nationalists in 1983, the “silence of civil society in Assam has been contributing to the plight of the victims” till today.
Subasri Krishnan, an award-winning documentary filmmaker who made a film on the Nellie massacre, said while Assam’s Muslim citizens were being stripped of their citizenship, the phenomenon of their being sent to detention centers was “not new.” In the 1960s and again in the 1990s many people were sent to detention centers.
Krishnan said the Nellie massacre spread to 14 villages and “was well planned and not spontaneous. The authorities failed to stop the violence even despite it continued for six long hours.” While earlier the majoritarian narrative was largely anti-Bengali, “right now, it fits the Hindutva politics. [Today,] many people who have all the required documents are still being sent to detention centers.”
Indian attorney Aman Wadud, who has defended many Assamese people accused of being foreigners by the National Register for Citizens (NRC) and is currently on a Fulbright-Nehru Master’s Fellowship for 2021-22 at the University of Texas School of Law, said the calls for genocide lead to actual genocide. “We as responsible citizens should be aware of fake news.”