ISTANBUL (AA) – Activists from around the world have sought an end to what they called “total impunity” against those involved in anti-minority activities in India.
“Many will argue (there are) early signs of genocide, but … genocide of Bengali Muslims has already occurred in Assam,” said Aman Wadud, a legal scholar and resident of India’s northeastern Assam province.
“On 18 February in 1983, around 3,000 Bengali Muslims, mostly women and children, were massacred in less than six hours. They were massacred on the pretext of being illegal migrants from Bangladesh,” he said of what is known as the Nellie massacre.
Wadud was speaking during a virtual summit, A scream from global civil society: Indian Genocide Warning, attended by more than 50 speakers from 24 countries on Friday.
This global conversation on India was sponsored by Forces of Renewal for Southeast Asia, Genocide Watch, Documentation Center of Cambodia, International State Crime Initiative and Noor Cultural Center.
Wadud said 600 police complaints were registered against the “mass murderers.”
A total of “289 charge sheets were filed (but) all charges were dropped by one order of a trial court,” he said. “There is absolute impunity against the mass murderers (in India).”
The US-based law scholar linked the massacre of innocents to fake news.
He said days before the massacre, “fake news was published by a newspaper … inciting people to commit genocide. Fake news has only spread since then.”
He detailed how 1.9 million people were made stateless in Assam on the pretext of being “illegal migrants” through the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) under the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government.
Wadud quoted militant Hindu groups, including Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, calling the mass murder of Indian Muslims “worse than what happened to Rohingya in Myanmar.”
“(There were) no police complaints and no arrests nor social media outrage,” he said.
Japanese scholar Michimi Muranushi said the stripping of Assam’s Indian Muslims is a “concerning warning sign of a genocidal process.”
“The passing of anti-Muslim citizenship laws and production of speeches against the Muslims show that the viewed word of genocide can be contagious,” he told the conference.
India in December 2019 amended its citizenship law, allowing non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to settle in the country and questioning Muslims in Assam about their origin.
Besides, it is updating its NRC, during which Muslims fear becoming stateless for want of documents to prove they have been living in India for generations.
‘Early signs of genocide present in India’
Gregory Stanton, professor and expert in genocide studies, warned that early signs of genocide are present in India.
“We are not saying genocide is already underway in India. We are just saying early warning stages are already present,” he said.
Stanton, who is the founding chair of US-based Genocide Watch, said: “what we have in India today is a murderous combination of religious nationalism.”
He said such instances were found in the past. “Religious nationalism was central to (Donald) Trump presidency” in the US.
Acknowledging the problem
Sindhuja Sankaran, an Indian academic, detailed the discrimination against Muslims and the denial of rights to migrants like the Rohingya community. “We are acknowledging a problem and we are trying to find a solution,” she said, referring to the summit. “We are constructively mobilizing an engaging and collective action.”
Angshuman Choudhury, an Indian peace researcher, said there are attempts to “underplay” anti-Muslim hatred and actions in India.
“Things can go from bad to worse like what happened in Germany (in the 1930s),” Choudhury said, referring to the Nazi onslaught under Hitler.
He said such a situation was “not just about a single political party like the BJP … it is also about seemingly secular parties also following the suite, so as to get a larger mass acceptance.”
Calling for extensive documentation of hatred and hate speech, he said there was a need for “bottom-up the narrative” that “transcend elite and intellectual spaces to reach larger people.”
Maung Zarni, a global rights defender, pointed to Myanmar, where the Rohingya ethnic group faced persecution by the government and the Burmese military.
“The troops will eventually come for the majority. Like we see in Myanmar now,” said the UK-based activist, referring to last year’s military coup.
A British era legacy
Dini Siddiqi, an academic from the US, said what is happening in India has “not received political and academic attention it should.”
She linked the current Hindu extremist narrative about Muslims with the British colonial era of the sub-continent during which the colonial power saw “Muslims as outsiders in South Asia.”
“That is the narrative that the Hindu right-wing has from the outset run with: the Muslim as an invader, a dangerous outsider and a potentially disloyal citizen,” she said.
Siddiqi said the idea for a Hindu state goes back to the days of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, “who fully embraced Nazi ideology.”