“India’s voice on the global stage can only gain in authority and credibility from a strong commitment to inclusive human rights also at home,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated during a recent visit to India. He said that India, as the historical leader of the non-violent anti-colonial struggle, should condemn hate speech “unequivocally,” and “protect and promote rights of all individuals including members of minority communities.”
Guterres notably stressed this concern even as he praised India for its humanitarian actions and sought support from one of the world’s largest economies for debt relief and to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda.
Many Indians, including the millions that are now spread across the world, seek global recognition and respect. However, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is aggressively promoting a majoritarian Hindu ideology that has left religious minorities, Dalits and tribal communities, those most marginalized, at increased risk of discrimination and violence. And predominantly Muslim Kashmiris continue to suffer increasing repression.
BJP leaders have in speeches incited violence against religious minorities, particularly Muslims. The national government has adopted policies that are discriminatory, fostering bias in independent institutions and the justice system. Security forces arrest Muslims on fabricated charges under draconian laws, and have demolished Muslim homes and properties without legal authorization as a form of summary punishment.
Meanwhile, no action has been taken against BJP supporters who repeatedly beat, humiliate, and degrade Muslims. When the government reacently authorized the early release of 11 men convicted of gang raping a pregnant Muslim woman, ignoring reservations by the investigating agency and a court, some BJP leaders openly celebrated.
And while the country’s leaders like to boast of India’s democratic credentials, including a robust civil society, the government has been cracking down on dissent, arresting critics or harassing them with allegations of financial irregularities. When its international partners have raised concerns, the government has engaged in prickly denial and counter allegations.
Hence, Secretary-General Guterres had to remind India that “diversity is a richness that makes your country stronger.”
The BJP has a choice. It can end communal divisiveness and address inequities, which will eventually lead to its stated goal of universal development. Or it can allow its members and supporters to continue the violence and discrimination that ultimately threatens all Indians.