India seized the global stage with an unquestionable air of confidence with a successful G20 summit in 2023. It was able to bag the global spotlight and unveiled a series of ambitious economic corridors designed to reshape trade routes and boost economic ties with the Western hemisphere. The country left no stone unturned in its efforts to guarantee the success of the G20 event and was able to accomplish more than it aimed for. Still, the true measure of accomplishment lies in addressing the fundamental issues affecting the lives of all citizens, regardless of their proximity to the limelight, and that is where India and its BJP lead government is lacking behind with its extremist Hindutva ideology and a recent report published by Genocide Watch ably highlights India’s dual reality once again.
It’s impossible to ignore the contrast between India’s display of economic strength and global aspirations at the G20 and the troubling human rights problems rumbling within its boundaries.
The continued subjugation of Kashmiri people since the abrogation of Article 370, suppression of civil society, atrocities against religious minorities, especially the Muslim community, and lack of a free press are all concerns that the Indian leadership concealed nicely under the cover of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which puts a big question mark on India’s democratic credentials.
Anti-minority acts of terrorism have grown at an alarming rate across India, especially against Muslims. With open calls for the genocide of Muslims by Hindutva monks, hate speech and hate crimes against Muslims have become rampant, and hate speech against Muslims flourishes. Not so long ago, two Muslim men from the Rajasthan-Haryana border were allegedly attacked and abducted by a mob that later set them ablaze, alive while they were inside their car. The murderers belonging to pro-Hindutva Bajrang Dal were publicly hailed as heroes.
The mere presence of Prime Minister Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) threatens India’s secularist constitution and its future as a democratic nation. Modi’s Hindu nationalist “Hindutva” agenda promotes intolerance counter to India’s pluralistic traditions. The discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and Anti-Conversion laws have attacked the rights of Muslims and Christians. Under so-called “anti-terrorism laws,” journalists have been detained for reporting anti-Muslim incidents. According to the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), India ranked 150th out of 180 nations, a major decline. Police routinely arrest journalists and human rights activists in Kashmir. The detention of activists and journalists during the G20 Summit is a vivid reminder of the hurdles facing journalistic liberty and human rights within the country.
The Hindu majoritarian Hindutva ideology of the government has even resulted in bias in the justice system. In August 2022, the BJP government approved the early release of eleven men sentenced to life in prison for gang rape and murder during the 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim massacres. It is a proven fact that Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been involved in controversial activities against the minority population, particularly against Muslims in India. It is the cultural wing of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu supremacist paramilitary organization and the ideological parent of India’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
VHP remained central in orchestrating the violence during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat state, killing over 1,000 Muslims
It is, therefore, an absolute necessity that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues should investigate India’s discrimination against Muslims and report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. It is important to understand that genuine global leadership extends beyond economic might and geopolitical strategies. It is more than just media projections and false narratives. It involves a steadfast dedication to upholding democratic principles, safeguarding human rights, and championing social equity, both on the world stage and within the confines of a nation’s territory.
India’s lofty global aspirations and its pursuit of becoming a prominent global player stand in blatant contrast to the pressing domestic challenges that undermine its democratic principles. Prime Minister Modi must immediately act against his party leaders to stop inciting anti-Muslim violence. The Indian Supreme Court should appoint an Independent Commission to investigate the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2020 as well as continuing anti-Muslim lynching, and the Indian Army and police who are involved in hideous crimes in Kashmir should be prosecuted.
As the world watches, it falls upon us, collectively, to ensure that India is held accountable for its actions. It is time to investigate the true face of democratic India deeply. The global commitment to democratic values, human rights, and social equity must transcend borders and guide the efforts toward a better future for all. The international community also bears a responsibility in this regard. Global leaders must also bring to the table issues like Kashmir and minority rights during diplomatic engagements with India and check its credentials of self-projected democracy.
Author is a Phd Scholar and visiting faculty at Quaid-i-Azam University. She can be reached on twitter @Nousheen_Ashraf