The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its new report Sunday (April 12) on the persistent discrimination against 250 million Muslims who live in India.
The report under the title: “Shoot the Traitors: Discrimination Against Muslims under India’s New Citizenship Policy” states that at least 52 people were killed in the three days of communal violence that broke out in India’s capital New Delhi.
Over 200 were injured, properties destroyed, and communities displaced in targeted attacks by Hindu mobs. While a policeman and some Hindus were also killed, the majority of victims were Muslim, the report describes.
According to the report, Muslims in India have been increasingly at risk since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was first elected in 2014.
On December 12, 2019, according to the HRW report, the Modi administration achieved passage of the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Under the act, for the first time in India, religion is a basis for granting citizenship.
The law specifically fast-tracks asylum claims of non-Muslim irregular immigrants from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The amended citizenship law, coupled with the government’s push for a nationwide citizenship verification process through a National Population Register (NPR) and a proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), aims at identifying “illegal migrants.”
It has led to fears that millions of Indian Muslims, including many families who have lived in the country for generations, could be stripped of their citizenship rights and disenfranchised.
Hundreds of thousands of Indians protested against the discriminatory citizenship laws announced by the Modi government. Shaheen Bagh in Delhi was the epicenter of nationwide protests. On March 24, however, authorities asked the protesters to disperse following the outbreak of coronavirus and calls for a lockdown to contain its spread.
The HRW report further explains that BJP leaders – who mostly act as mobsters – derided the protesters or more dangerously called them anti-national and pro-Pakistan. Addressing a mob of BJP goons, a minister in the Modi government described the protesters as “Pakistani hooligans,” while others led a chant to “shoot the traitors,” inciting violence.
The violence in Delhi, according to the report, began soon after local BJP politician Kapil Mishra, who had earlier led a large demonstration calling to “shoot” the protesters, posted a video in which he gave an ultimatum to the police, threatening to take the matter into his own hands if the police did not clear the roads of protesters in three days.
First there were clashes between Hindus who supported the government and Muslims protesting against the new citizenship law, but this soon transformed into Hindu mobs chanting nationalist slogans, armed with swords, sticks, metal pipes, and bottles filled with petrol, rampaging through several neighborhoods in northeast Delhi, killing Muslims and burning their homes, shops, mosques, and property.
The report also explains Home Minister Amit Shah’s role in Delhi violence, police brutality on students, inaction against BJP leaders who instigated violence, misuse of laws by the Modi government to prevent protests, and violation of India’s international legal obligations including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Under its recommendations, the HRW report urges the Modi government to repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, and ensure that any future national asylum and refugee policy does not discriminate on any grounds, including religion, and is compliant with international legal standards.
It also recommends to discard any plan for a nationwide citizenship verification project (such as NPR or NRC) until there are public consultations to establish standardized procedures and due process protections ensuring the process is not discriminatory and does not impose undue hardship on the poor, minority communities, and women.
The report asks the Modi government to protect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of those protesting against the government’s citizenship law and policies. The government should also ensure prompt, credible, and impartial investigations into the killings of protesters, allegations of use of excessive force by police, arbitrary detention, torture in custody, and raids on Muslims homes and property.
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) April 12, 2020
The report further demands the release of all those arbitrarily detained for protesting against the citizenship law and dismiss politically motivated charges against protesters and civil society activists.
It asks the Modi government to investigate hate speech by government officials and appropriately prosecute incitement to violence, and order Uttar Pradesh (UP) authorities to withdraw all notices to residents for damages in relation to protests against the citizenship law, return any money collected through the notices so far, and do not attempt to collect any losses without a credible, transparent investigation and judicial oversight.
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