In a report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced the actions of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government for targeting Muslims and stigmatizing critics of the Indian government.
In its report released on February 19, 2021, the international human rights organization said that prejudices planted in the Centre have “infiltrated independent institutions, such as the police and the courts, empowering nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities with impunity”.
The HRW has criticized the government authorities for not conducting an impartial investigation into the Delhi communal riots that took place last year and resulted in the death of 53 people, including 40 Muslims. The international non-governmental organization has also condemned the government for “vilifying minority Sikh protestors and opening investigations into their alleged affiliation with separatist groups” in the ongoing farmers’ protest taking place on the borders of Delhi against the Centre’s three farm laws.
In the report, HRW South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said that the BJP embracing the Hindu majority is coming at the expense of the minorities. “The BJP’s embrace of the Hindu majority at the expense of minorities has seeped into government institutions, undermining equal protection of the law without discrimination,” she said, adding that the government is not only failing to protect minorities but is also providing political support.
The report also points about how the Centre has targeted activists, academics and critics of the government over the years. BJP leaders and its supporters have vilified and discredited those speaking out against the government. There has been a trend where those protesting against the government have been accused of conspiring against the country and its people. This trend was seen during the CAA agitations and the ongoing farmers’ protest.
According to the report, “Authorities have especially harassed and prosecuted those protecting the rights of minorities and vulnerable communities. BJP leaders and affiliated groups have long portrayed minority communities, especially Muslims, as a threat to national security and to the Hindu way of life.”
“Since BJP came to power in 2014, it has taken various legislative and other actions that have legitimized discrimination against religious minorities and enabled violent Hindu nationalism,” HRW said.
The report also pointed out the various moves the government made to “discriminate” minorities especially Muslims. “The government passed a citizenship law in December 2019 that discriminates against Muslims, making religion the basis for citizenship for the first time. In August 2019, the government also revoked the constitutional autonomy granted to the only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, and imposed restrictions in violation of people’s basic rights….,” the report said adding that some states are using laws against cow slaughter to prosecute Muslim cattle traders and the anti-conversion law.
According to Human Rights Watch, the government’s actions violates the domestic law. "India’s obligations under international human rights law is that prohibit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or religion, and require the governments to provide residents with equal protection of the law," said HRW.
The human rights organization also said that the central government is obliged to protect the minority population and fairly prosecute those responsible for discriminating and indulging in violence against minority communities.