Thursday, May 25, 2017

India's upper caste animosity towards Dalits and tribals extends to religious minorities: US report raises alarm

By Our Representative
A new report by an Indian-American coalition based in Washington, Alliance for Justice & Accountability, has raised the alarm that that over the last three years of the BJP rule in India, “the ‘upper’ castes’ animosity towards the Dalits and Adivasis” has sharply “extended to Muslims and Christians, who are today India’s second and third largest religious minorities respectively”.
“Endorsed” by the Indian American Muslim Council, the Dalit American Coalition Organization of Minorities from India, TwoCircles, and South Asian Solidarity Initiative, the report, titled “Minority Rights Violations in India”, believes an important reason for this is, “millions of Dalits and other lower castes have chosen to convert in a bid to escape their exploited fate under Hinduism.”
A compilation of “attacks” on minority communities, Dalits and adivasis, as also on dissent, in India over the last three years, the report, believes, India’s caste-based discriminatory system is “akin to apartheid”, with its “concomitant evils like untouchability and religious bigotry” threatening to “exacerbate India’s rapidly widening caste and class divide”, creating “an environment of increasing intolerance towards religious, caste, and gender minorities.”
According to the report, “Millions of Dalit or ‘lower’ castes and Adivasis have suffered centuries of systemic repression, exclusion and stigma at the hands of ‘upper’ castes. The same forces are spearheading India's seemingly relentless drift away from secularism and religious pluralism, especially over the course of the last three years.”
Calling BJP’s victory in May 2014 coming to power of forces which have “openly espoused Hindutva, an ultranationalist ideology marked by extreme animus towards Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities”, the report notes, “While votaries of Hindutva are actually a minority among Hindus, the BJP rode to power on promises of inclusive development.”
“The result”, according to the report, is “brazen” violations of “human rights and religious freedom of minorities” covering “a broad spectrum, from illegal detention, torture and fake encounter killings of detainees to open assault against individuals, their sources of livelihood and in many cases their places of worship.”
“Hundreds of Muslims have been arrested on trumped up charges of terrorism, and have spent several years in prison before being finally acquitted”, the report complains, giving the example of how this is being done through “laws curbing religious conversion, the ban on sale and possession of beef in many states and the curbs placed on NGOs.”
“In all cases, the state has become an enabler of repression, often going to great lengths to defend and normalize the abuse”, it says, adding, “While multiple international bodies have called out the RSS and its affiliates for their violence and extremism, Hindutva's stranglehold on Indian polity continues to tighten.”
Pointing out that “the culture of impunity that has taken hold in India bodes ill for the rule of law, and for India's continued ascendancy on the world stage”, the report insists, “The international community has an obligation to take cognizance of human rights violations in India and to influence the Indian government to take necessary steps to safeguard the rights of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities.”

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