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India: Update to IND16211.E of 10 January 1994 on the treatment of Muslims by Hindus and government forces

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 March 1999
Citation / Document Symbol IND31301.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, India: Update to IND16211.E of 10 January 1994 on the treatment of Muslims by Hindus and government forces, 1 March 1999, IND31301.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ab7050.html [accessed 18 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

A recent news release from Amnesty International states that "violence against religious minorities ... is escalating throughout India" (25 Jan. 1999). Amnesty International and other sources indicate that although most of the recent attacks have taken place against Christians, Muslims continue to be discriminated against and at risk of physical violence (ibid.; IHT 25 Jan. 1999; Minorities at Risk 15 Mar. 1996). Most of the recent attacks against minorities have occurred in states such as Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, where Hindu nationalist sentiment is the strongest and where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governs either alone or in coalition with other Hindu nationalist parties (IHT 25 Jan. 1999; The Washington Post 17 Nov. 1998; AI 25 Jan. 1999; The Economist 4 Apr. 1998). Right-wing Hindu political organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) [Association of National Volunteers] Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) [World Hindu Council] and the Bajrang Dal [VHP trained militant wing] have been accused of systematic attacks on Muslims, particularly in Gujrat and certain districts of  Orissa (The Hindu 7 Aug. 1998; ibid. 18 Aug. 1998; AI 25 Jan. 1999).

Listed below are several recent examples of communal violence involving Muslims.

On 6 June 1998 at least four people were killed and 65 injured in two days of armed clashes between about 1,500 Hindus and Muslims in the southern city of Hyderabad (AP 6 June 1998). The trouble reportedly began the previous day when Muslims, angered by pamphlets denigrating their religion, attacked Hindus after noon prayers (ibid.).

Also in June 1998, in Randhikpur village of Panchmahal district in Gujrat, Muslims were targeted by Hindu mobs after two local Hindu girls eloped with Muslim boys of the village (India Abroad 2 Oct. 1998; India Today 10 Aug. 1998; The Hindu 18 Aug. 1998; NCM n.d.). The Hindu mobs, instigated by local VHP leaders, reportedly forced the 300-member Muslim community to flee the village and set fire to a couple of Muslim houses (India Today 10 Aug. 1998; The Hindu 18 Aug. 1998).

In July 1998 the BJP- Shiv Sena-led coalition government of Maharashtra State began deporting Bengali-speaking Muslims, claiming they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh (Dawn 11 Dec. 1998; The Economist 5 Sept. 1998). Most of the deportees were reportedly casual workers who had been living in Bombay for decades (ibid.).

On 6 August 1998 the judicial commission of inquiry led by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, which was investigating the January 1993 communal riots in Bombay that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Muslims and caused thousands more to flee the city, tabled its report in the Maharashtra State Assembly (WSWS 14 Aug. 1998; The Economist 5 Sept. 1998). Justice Srikrishna's report found that the attacks on Muslims and Muslim-owned property were carried out by Shiv Sena cadres instigated by the party's top leaders, including Shiv Sena "supremo" Bal Thackery, who led his troops "like a veteran [military] commander" according to Justice Srikrishna (WSWS 14 Aug. 1998; The Economist 5 Sept. 1998). Justice Srikrishna found that the January attacks had been preceded by weeks of propaganda from the Shiv Sena leadership on the virtues of retaliation against Muslims for injuries suffered by Hindus during a December 1992 clash between Hindus and Muslims (WSWS 14 Aug. 1998). Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi reportedly attacked the report in communal terms, calling it "pro-Muslim" and "Anti-Hindu" (ibid.). One report indicates that Justice Srikrishna's report was completed in February 1998, but had been suppressed by the state government (The Economist 5 Sept. 1998).

On 30 January 1999, just days after an Australian Baptist missionary and his two sons were burned alive by Hindu extremists, Indian Parliamentary Affairs and Tourism Minister Maden Lal Khurana resigned his position, reportedly stating that he was ashamed to be part of a government that could not protect the lives of minorities (WEF n.d.).

Some sources suggest that India's major political parties, including the BJP, have begun to recognize that there is a political cost to alienating India's 120-million strong Muslim community (New Straits Times 11 Feb. 1999; DPA 29 Jan. 1998). DPA reports that Indian Muslims, particularly the poorer ones, tend to vote as a bloc, and that the Congress Party and BJP "[bent] over backwards ... to win the Moslem vote" during the run up to the last Lok Sabha election (ibid.). The Times of London has speculated that the political strength of India's Muslim community may in part explain the recent upswing in attacks on Christians: "Christians are vulnerable precisely because they are so few; having discovered that attacking Muslims loses the BJP votes , Hindu activists have picked an easier target for their broader message of religious intolerance" (New Straits Times 11 Feb. 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 25 January 1999. "India: Religious Violence Reaches Unacceptable Levels." (AI Index: ASA 20/03/99) [Internet] [Accessed 19 Feb. 1999]

Associated Press (AP). 6 June 1998. Omer Farooq. "Fresh Hindu-Muslim Rioting Kills Four in Southern India." (NEXIS)

Dawn [Karachi]. 11 December 1998. "India's Human Rights Record Ebbs in Valley: Human Rights Watch." [Internet] [Accessed 11 Dec. 1998]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 29 January 1998. BC Cycle. M.G. Srinath. "India's Parties Woo Moslems, Minorities Ahead of Elections." (NEXIS)

The Economist [New York]. 5 September 1998. India: Intolerant Still." (NEXIS)

_____. 4 April 1998. "Who's Afraid of the BJP?" (NEXIS)

The Hindu [Madras]. 18 August 1998. "India-Curfew in Gujrat Town Following Communal Clashes." (NEXIS)

_____. 7 August 1998. "BJP Under Fire for 'Attacks' on Minorities." [Internet] [Accessed 7 Aug. 1998]

India Abroad [Toronto]. 2 October 1998. Liz Mathew. "Government Asked to Protect Minorities." [Internet] [Accessed 2 Oct. 1998]

India Today [New Delhi]. 10 August 1998. Uday Mahurkar. "Gujrat: Bad Blood Boiling." [Internet] [Accessed 13 Aug. 1998]

International Herald Tribune (IHT) [Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fra.]. 25 January 1999. Celia W. Dugger. "India's Christians Suffer Growing Wave of Hindu Attacks." (NEXIS)

Minorities at Risk Project, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, College Park, Md. 15 March 1996. "Muslims in India." [Internet] [Accessed 19 Feb. 1999]

National Commission for Minorities (NCM), New Delhi. n.d. "Complaints Regarding Alleged Atrocities on Minorities in Gujrat." [Internet] [Accessed 19 Feb. 1999]

New Straits Times [Singapore]. 11 February 1999. "Consumed By a Burning Rage." (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 17 November 1998. Kenneth J. Cooper. "In India, More Attacks on Christians; Harassment is Greatest Where Hindu Nationalist Sentiment Prevails." (NEXIS)

World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF). n.d. "News Items Concerning the Persecuted Church: Indian Minister Quits over Attacks." [Internet] [Accessed 25 Feb. 1999]

World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). 14 August 1998. Keith Jones. "India: BJP Coalition Partner Indicted for Organizing Communal Riots." [Internet] [Accessed 22 Feb. 1999]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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