New Delhi, Feb 19 (efe-epa).- Anti-minority bias in India has spread to the courts and the police, Human Rights Watch said Friday, amid months-long protests by farmers that authorities vilify and brand as Sikh separatist demonstrations.
The watchdog said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government had adopted policies that systematically discriminate against minorities in the country of 1.34 billion people.
In a statement, issued ahead of the first anniversary of the Delhi communal riots, HRW said the authorities had not conducted fair probe into the riots instigated allegedly by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
The violence that broke out on Feb.23 last year and left 53 people dead, 40 of them Muslims, followed months of street protests against the new citizenship law that Modi critics consider discriminatory against Muslims.
“Instead of conducting a credible and impartial investigation (into Delhi riots), including into allegations that BJP leaders incited violence and police officials were complicit in attacks, the authorities have targeted activists and protest organizers,” HRW said.
The watchdog said Indian authorities had now responded to another mass protest, this time by farmers, by vilifying minority Sikh protesters and opening investigations into their alleged affiliation with separatist groups.
“Prejudices embedded in the government of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP have infiltrated independent institutions, such as the police and the courts,” HRW said.
It has empowered nationalist groups to threaten, harass, and attack religious minorities with impunity, it said
The rights group recalled how BJP leaders and supporters attempted to discredit anti-citizenship law protesters, particularly Muslims, by accusing them of conspiring against national interests.
Similarly, senior BJP leaders, their supporters on social media, and pro-government media were now blaming the Sikhs, another religious minority, for organizing protests against the new farm laws.
“They accuse Sikhs of having a ‘Khalistani’ agenda, a reference to a Sikh separatist insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and 90s,” the watchdog said.
The HRW statement referred to Modi’s Feb.8 speech in parliament, describing people in various peaceful protests as “parasites,” and calling international criticism of increasing authoritarianism in India a “foreign destructive ideology.”
Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said the BJP’s embrace of the Hindu majority had “seeped into government institutions, undermining equal protection of the law without discrimination.”
“The government has not only failed to protect Muslims and other minorities from attacks but is providing political patronage and cover for bigotry,” Ganguly said.
Ganguly told EFE that BJP leaders describe religious minorities as anti-national, arguing that Islam was imported by Muslim invaders and Christianity by colonial rulers.
She also mentioned how cow protection policies were “used indiscriminately to prosecute Muslim cattle traders.”
Ganguly said controversial anti-conversion law, approved by some BJP-ruled states, was used to target “Muslim men who marry Hindu women.”
“We hope the government will reverse course. The BJP has won recent elections with a big mandate, and polls suggest that leadership still enjoys support.
She said it was difficult to understand why the government was not more secure about taking criticism and confidently reviewing policies that have led people to protest. EFE-EPA