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Australian govt told to act: Foreign Ministry's India report talks of 'worrisome' trends

Australian high commissioner with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat
Counterview Desk
Australia based Humanism Project, commenting on a 72-page report released recently by the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on India, has said that the human rights situation portrayed in it a clarion call for the for the “international community to intervene” in view of the details provided in it on “attacks” on “religious minorities, journalists and others who dare to criticize the government have been on the rise.”
In a note on the report, the country’s top advocacy group states, “Using Narendra Modi as its face, the RSS has been attempting to transform this culture into a kind of Hindu nation that is not only at odds with the inclusive Hindu traditions but is also filled with hate and has fascist tendencies”, asking the Australian government and its leaders to “work collaboratively with the international community to take steps to foil these attempts.”

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The state of the nation described in the December 2020 ‘Country Information Report’ on India by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is not just worrisome, it further reinforces the concerns the Humanism Project (THP) has been expressing all along. The human rights situation portrayed in India in the DFAT Country Information Report India is a signal that it is time for the international community to intervene.
DFAT report clearly states that attacks in India on religious minorities, journalists and others who dare to criticize the government have been on the rise.
“There has been an increase in targeted attacks against religious minorities in recent years. Some observers claim members of the current government have created a permissive environment for Hindu nationalist groups in India to target minorities and engage in hate-speech,” reads a paragraph under the segment ‘Religion’ of the 72-page report.
DFAT has held organisations linked with the Rashtriya Swaymsevak Sangh (RSS) responsible for these targeted attacks. The report states, “At their foundation, these groups have the objective of organising and consolidating a Hindu society and protecting the Hindu Dharma (the moral precept and code of living that governs duty, religion and law in Hinduism). The RSS movement and its affiliates have been known to work at the grass roots level to organise Hindus and defend their interests. Participants reportedly engage in lessons that prioritise the Hindu way of life.”
“Some RSS affiliates have engaged in militant activities. In 2018, the CIA classified VHP as a militant religious organisation. In 1992, Bajrang Dal participated in the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque at Ayodhya (see Ayodhya – Babri Mosque and Hindu Temple). For the last 30 years, BD has either been banned or operated on the margins of society. However, since the BJP came to office in 2014, media claims the group has grown more powerful. BD has formed approximately 2,500 cells across India.”
This is the same RSS whose chief Mohan Bhagwat Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell had paid a visit to, in November 2020, and had sung praises of. In its report, DFAT has described how RSS and other Hindu organisations are involved in the attacks on religious minorities.
“Reported instances of communal tension involving Muslims in recent years, include violence, assaults, riots, religiously motivated killings and discrimination. According to a July 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, which researched religious restrictions in the 25 most populous countries, India ranked among the top five countries with the highest levels of social hostilities. Hindu nationalist groups, such as the Shiv Sena or the RSS, have been responsible for some incidents, in what some observers claim is a permissive environment (see Hindu nationalist organisations). In March 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned India over ‘divisive policies’ and harassment of minorities, particularly Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis.”
In its report, DFAT states that Hindu nationalism in India not only receives unofficial sanction but also encouragement from people who are part of the Indian government.
“Hindu nationalist politics has heightened communal tensions in parts of India in recent years. In this climate, there are higher levels of fear in the Muslim community. The risk of societal discrimination and violence is higher for Muslims who are involved in cow slaughter; however, these incidents, while widely reported, have not affected the day-to-day lives of most Muslims.”
“Observers assess the government has sought to align Indian nationalism with Hindu nationalism. They claim the BJP has benefited politically from some Hindu organisations’ use of violence to polarise the electorate along religious lines. The 2019 USCIRF report – which the Indian Government rejects – claims certain BJP members have affiliations with extremist Hindu groups and have used inflammatory language about religious minorities publicly (see Recent History and Hindu nationalist organisations). This has led to concerns minority rights and religious freedoms are being threatened, and the link between democracy and secularism is being weakened.”
According to DFAT report, religious freedom has suffered a setback in India and attacks by Hindu nationalists, not only on Muslims but also against Christians have increased.
“A rise in Hindu nationalism has coincided with increasing incidents of violence and discrimination against Christians. Christians have increasingly faced poorly founded legal proceedings and police reports, difficulties for churches and NGOs dealing with local government authorities, public statements by officials denigrating Christians, and threats or acts of violence.”
DFAT has described how RSS is involved in the attacks on religious minorities. It's the same organisation Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell paid a visit to
“A March 2019 Newsweek report claimed that, in 2018, more than 100 churches were shut across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, citing building codes and/or panchayat building rules. Newsweek claims the actual number of churches affected is likely higher as figures do not include remote parts of India where records are more difficult to collect.”
Attacks on media and the critics of the government have also been detailed in this report.
“Media reports citing official data claim 332 people were arrested under the sedition law between 2016 and 2018, with seven convicted (suggesting police have struggled to gather evidence against the accused).”
In the report, DFAT has stated that colonial-era sedition laws are being increasingly enforced to silence the critics of the government.
“DFAT assesses people who publicly express views critical of the government face a moderate risk of official discrimination. This may include arrest, harassment and prosecution.”
And, the Indian government has made it difficult for human rights organisations to function in India.
“Sources told DFAT they consider the government has further intensified efforts against NGOs, and there is now a greater use of the Foreign Currency Regulation Act to ‘crack down on the freedom of expression [and] to pursue all forms of dissent’. Civil society claims this has made them less able to hold the state accountable.”
“Those who operate NGOs that are critical of the government or deal with politically sensitive issues face a high risk of official discrimination. This may take the form of monitoring, harassment, raids, or cancellation or denial of funding licences.”
Journalists who openly criticize the government’s policies are potentially in danger, according to DFAT.
“DFAT assesses journalists reporting on politically sensitive issues, such as the CAA or J&K, or those who openly criticise the government and its policies, face a high risk of official discrimination or harassment. At times, harassment can be violent. DFAT assesses journalists reporting on issues that are not deemed to be sensitive face a low level of official and societal violence and discrimination, in the context of a vast and active media industry.”
The report highlights all the concerns that The Humanism Project has been expressing all along before the Australian political leadership and the media.
With the release of this report, it is now becoming clear that it will impact the minds of Indians living in Australia. The Indians in Australia love their country of origin and take pride in India’s culture of inclusiveness and diversity.
However, since the arrival of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2014, these traditions and culture have been under constant attack. Using Narendra Modi as its face, the RSS has been attempting to transform this culture into a kind of Hindu nation that is not only at odds with the inclusive Hindu traditions but is also filled with hate and has fascist tendencies.
The Humanism Project voices its strong opposition to these moves and urges the Australian government and its leaders to work collaboratively with the international community to take steps to foil these attempts.
The world still remembers Nazi Germany and the sufferings such regimes can inflict on their own people. With laws like the discriminatory citizenship legislations in 2019 accompanied by the detention centres for those declared ‘illegal’ and the latest ‘love jihad’ laws to regulate inter-faith relationships, the Modi government is putting in place laws and structures that are a grim reminder of those terrible times in Germany before the Second World War.

Comments

GS Ruddin said…
The brain-dead conservative government which goes crazy about China says nothing about the fanatical genocidal regime of Modi and his Nazi loving buddies in the RSS.
No wonder Australia is viewed as a backwater in international affairs with such politically inconsistency and hypocrisy!

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