Myth of Indian secularism exploded

Malik M Ashraf

A report compiled by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding Constitutional and legal challenges faced by religious minorities in India has exploded the myth of Indian secularism. It has strongly brought out the fact that though the Indian constitution emphasizes complete legal equality of its citizens regardless of their religion or creed and prohibits any kind of religious discrimination but many of the constitutional provisions and laws in the states do not meet the international standards in regards to religious freedom and are in clear violation of article 18 of UN Declaration of Human Rights and International convention on Civil and Political Rights.
It reveals that the religious minorities in India and Dalits have faced discrimination and persecution under Congress and BJP regimes due to a host of ill-defined laws, an inefficient criminal justice system and lack of jurisprudential consistency. However since 2014 hate crimes, social boycotts, assaults and forced conversions have escalated dramatically. In the backdrop of victory of India’s right wing BJP in May 2014. The religious communities feel increasingly insecure as the radical Hindu nationalist movements are having a hay day under the BJP-led government. India faces serious challenges to its pluralistic traditions. Low caste Hindus known as Dalits and classified as Schedule castes or tribes are also increasingly being attacked and harassed.
That virtually constitutes an indictment of the Modi regime which is pursuing communal politics in India that foments the syndrome of hate against other religious communities in India. The world has witnessed a wave of incidents against the religious minorities by Hindu extremist elements under the approving wink of the Modi government. The policies being pursued by the BJP government have not only been criticized by the human rights groups but the intelligentsia in India have also shown grave concern over the what they call attempts by Modi to change the secular face of India and some of them have also rescinded the awards given to them by the Indian government as a protest. Saner voices in media have also expressed strong disapproval of the machinations of the BJP government and its inability to check discriminatory acts against religious minorities. The report has pinpointed a number of constitutional provisions, federal and state laws which need repeal or reform to improve human rights situation in India, especially the religious minorities. It has recommended to the Indian government to take steps in this regard. The Commission has also made a number of recommendations to the US administration to help India in improving the human rights situation and protect the religious minorities. In this regard among other steps it has asked US government to put religious freedom and human rights at the heart of all trade, aid and diplomatic interactions with India and also ask her to sign the 1977 Additional Protocols of the Geneva Convention of 1948 and withdraw its reservations on the Genocide Convention 1948, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).
There is however a very little hope that the BJP-led Indian government would ever care to pay heed to the contents of the report or the US administration would try to link aid and trade with human rights or the rights of the religious minorities in India. The US and its western allies see their relations with India through the prism of their strategic and commercial interests rather than the human rights situation in India which encourages the BJP government to continue its communal policies within India and the blatant violation of human rights in occupied Kashmir. Human Rights organizations within India and international organizations like Amnesty International have also been regularly monitoring situation in occupied Kashmir and making their reports public but regrettably US has never bothered to take notice of them.
According to these reports Indian security forces in Kashmir have killed nearly 94 thousand Kashmiris during the last 26 years, raped more than ten thousand women and killed more than seven thousand persons while in custody. During the current uprising in Kashmir, the Indian security forces have used pallet guns, rubber bullets, tear gas shells and assault rifles to kill and maim the protesters. More than 170 people have been killed so far and nearly 1500 have been seriously injured. There is no let up in the carnage but the international community, the UN, US and its allies who never tire of screaming at the pitch of their voices to pinpoint human rights violations selectively remain oblivious to what India is doing in Kashmir and with the religious minorities within mainland India. That surely reflects poorly on their credentials as champions of human causes.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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