By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI (AA) - Hard-line Hindu saints gathered last month for a Dharm Sansad, or religious congregation, in Haridwar, a religious town.
An organizer who has gained prominence in recent years, Yati Narsinghanand, called for attacks against Muslims and their places of worship.
“Muslims won't be killed by swords now. You have to defeat them in technique. Swords look good on stage only. This battle will be won by those with better weapons. More and more kids and better weapons, only these can save you,” he said.
Another organizer called for Hindus to replicate what happened in Myanmar, calling for a genocide of Muslims.
Police reluctantly filed a report following outrage after videos of the meeting went viral.
On the eve of World Religious Freedom Day to be observed Sunday, experts and human rights activists said that it is a new normal in India and had the religious identities of the accused been different, police may have treated them differently.
“Everyone knows what’s going on here. We are being stopped from offering Namaz (prayers) and our religious rights granted by the Constitution are being violated every second day,” said Niyaz Farooqui, secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, India's largest socio-religious Muslim organization.
“Now you cannot expect any action from the government against these people who are openly threatening the minorities,” said Farooqui, adding that if Muslims reach the courts, the attitude of the courts is often lackadaisical and cases get delayed.
“Police do not investigate such cases properly and they often try to shield the accused persons,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Niyaz Farooqui, however, said there is still a large number of non-Muslims who do not believe in all of the things that Hindus do and they stand with minorities.
In Gurugram, a satellite town adjacent to the national capital of New Delhi, Hindu groups have continuously disrupted Friday prayers that are organized in the open.
Lack of space has forced Muslims to offer prayers in government-owned lands with the permission of the administration.
At least five complaints were lodged by Muslims against the disruptions but not a single case has been registered by Gurugram police.
“This shows that now we are being treated as second-class citizens in a country where we have grown up and celebrated festivals with people from different religions,” said Ehtesham Hashmi, a Supreme Court lawyer who is fighting cases of atrocities against Muslims.
“People are now being treated differently based on their religion,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its World Report 2022 that was released Thursday said attacks against religious minorities were carried out with impunity under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Hindu nationalist government.
In 2021, Munawar Faruqui, a Muslim comedian, spent 35 days in jail in India for a joke he had not cracked.
He was accused of "insulting" Hindu religious sentiments in jokes that he had allegedly prepared, although the jokes did not appear in his public program.
“The hate mongers and bigots are enjoying the protection in BJP-ruled states. The state government is not only protecting but promoting them. They either get a post in the (political) party (BJP) or are fielded in the elections by the party,” added Hashmi.
- Christian community also under attack
Another minority community, Christians, came under attack in India during Christmas celebrations. As many as six attacks were reported by the media in different parts of the country.
“The current state of religious freedom is dipping day by day and it is not limited to any particular state or government but it is like a wildfire spreading across the nation dividing the people on the basis of religion,” said Shibu Thomas, founder of Persecution Relief, which monitors violence against Christians in India.
“I personally feel that political leaders of all the parties should take strict actions to stop it because the biggest worry is the youth population. Their mind should not get corrupted," said Thomas.
The minority population comprises nearly 20% of India's 1.4 billion. Hindus still form nearly 80% of the population.
Meanwhile, an official with the ruling BJP has denied that his government is targeting minorities.
“It is more a propaganda by international organizations against India. Our government doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religion,” said Kailash Vijayvargiya, national general secretary of BJP.