After Christchurch

Governments must speak up and condemn violence against Muslims in India

The B.C. government’s response to the New Zealand attacks was admirable, but it’s time to apply the same approach to killings and discrimination in ‘the world’s largest democracy’
Photo: Travis Wise
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Following the recent massacre of 50 people in Christchurch’s mosque shootings, the Canadian flag was flown half-mast at the B.C. legislature.

This was certainly a great gesture on the part of the provincial government. After all, the province is home to a strong Muslim community, and it is right to convey that hate has no place anywhere in the world.

Premier John Horgan also showed leadership by making a statement against the massacre.

However, New Zealand is as far from Canada as India is in terms of its geographical location. If these murders have really saddened us, then why is there no despair over the mounting number of violent deaths of Muslims at the hands of Hindu extremists since 2014?

Attacks on religious minorities, particularly Muslims, have grown in India since the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power with a brute majority five years ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself was complicit in an anti-Muslim massacre in Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister there. Though he was never charged, survivors of the violence and human rights activists maintain that he and the BJP were directly involved in the pogrom.

Unlike New Zealand, where the government isn’t backing the white supremacist who committed the horrific crime in Christchurch, in India the anti-Muslim mobsters are patronized by the ruling party.

BJP supporters who wish to transform India into a Hindu theocracy continue to intimidate minority communities with impunity. Some Muslims have been physically prevented from practicing their faith by the right-wing goons. Dozens of Muslims have been murdered by mobs led by self-styled cow vigilantes. As Hindus consider cow a sacred animal, these vigilantes can kill Muslims suspected of carrying beef. If this is not enough, some police forces under the BJP government have also been aggressively targeting Muslims, who are often branded as terrorists.

Unlike New Zealand, where the government isn’t backing the white supremacist who committed the horrific crime in Christchurch, in India the anti-Muslim mobsters are patronized by the ruling party. In some instances, BJP leaders have even openly praised those involved in violence against Muslims.

Recently, BJP supporter Babu Bajrangi, who was convicted and given a life sentence for his involvement in the 2002 massacre of Muslims, was granted bail on medical grounds. Swami Aseemanand, another Hindu supremacist who in 2010 confessed his involvement in the killings of 68 rail passengers, mostly Pakistani Muslims, in a blast on a train connecting India and Pakistan, was recently acquitted by the courts after claiming his confession had been coerced. Extremists from minority communities in India, meanwhile, continue to be convicted and incarcerated.

The question the B.C. government needs to be asked is whether Muslim lives in India also matter.

It is time for the B.C. government and the Canadian government to pay attention to what is going on India.

For the record, the B.C. government and its ministers, including those of Indian origin, have never raised this issue. Leave aside the question of flying the Canadian flag half-mast at the legislature for the victims of sectarian violence in India, there is no indication that hard questions were raised by the premier when Indian ambassador Vikas Swarup visited the provincial legislature early last month. In fact, the Indian flag was flown outside the legislature to welcome him.

Canadians take democracy in India for granted. They need to look and find out what the BJP government stands for. The idea of racial superiority is not new to this party. Its founders held allegiance to the ultra Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and had a great reverence for people like Adolf Hitler. Now the BJP has a lot of respect for men like Donald Trump — who had an influence on the Christchurch shooter. One BJP MLA, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, endorsed the racist views of Australian senator Fraser Anning in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, blaming Muslim immigrants for the crime. Sirsa’s comments, now retracted following public outcry, reflect the mindset of the BJP.

It is time for the B.C. government and the Canadian government to pay attention to what is going on India. Making trade relations with that country is one thing, but remaining silent over repression under the garb of democracy is totally unacceptable.

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