In August 2019, the Indian government took away Kashmir’s special status and enforced a year-long lockdown, including unprecedented restriction on internet and public assemblies
NEW DELHI — The Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights watchdog, has said that the silence of western leaders on human rights abuses by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has only emboldened him in his anti-Muslim agenda.
In an interview to Newsweek, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said the West’s attempt to use India as a counterweight to China as well as the “unprincipled approach to human rights pursued by President Trump had only emboldened the Indian leader’s decision to undermine the human rights of Muslim citizens”.
Under Modi, India underwent a sharp rightward, shift further marginalising its 200 million Muslim minorities. In August 2019, the Indian government took away Kashmir’s special status and enforced a year-long lockdown, including unprecedented restriction on internet and public assemblies.
HRW is an international human rights watchdog calling out governments and groups found involved in abuse of human rights and has been awarded a Nobel for its efforts against use of landmines.
Roth told Newsweek: “The big issue with India is Prime Minister Modi’s systematic discrimination against Muslims and his tolerance of violence against Muslims.”
Before Modi became PM, he was barred from travelling to the UK and the US for his 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat; nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu extremists when he was the Chief Minister of the state. He is accused of allowing the mobs to commit acts of violence against Muslims.
In December, just a few months into his second term, PM Modi announced new citizenship rules allowing minorities from neighbouring countries to get Indian citizenship. It excludes Muslims despite India being a constitutionally secular country. The new law called the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was described by activists as discriminatory. They said that if coupled with the prospective citizenship test (NRC), it can lead to disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Muslim citiznens.
Protests led by Muslim women broke out across India calling for revocation of the new law but the government did not budge. In February this year, Hindu mobs attacked Muslims in parts of Delhi which led to riots, leaving over 53 people dead, most of them Muslims.
Roth said: “Modi has largely got away with his anti-Muslim agenda and his oppression of protests against it, that is, the relative lack of criticism from the West has only emboldened him on this abusive path.”
He added: “His withdrawal of Kashmir’s special constitutional status and the subsequent crackdown on dissent, shutting down the internet, all are part of this broader anti-Muslim elements of the BJP policy which Modi either participates in actively or simply tolerates, including the so-called cow vigilantes, who are basically vigilantes who attack Muslims.”
For Hindus, cows are sacred animals and need state protection. The members of rightwing parties have created self-styled cow vigitlante gangs who attack ordinary Muslims engaged in the cattle trade.
The HRW executive director said the Western governments’ reluctance to call out human rights violations in India is to balance out the rise of China.
Roth said: “It’s [Kashmir] one piece of a larger anti-Muslim agenda which the West has largely ignored. India is a major power, a major country. There is increasing tension with China and some just soften the criticism of India because they see it as an ally in competition with China.
“Trump is utterly uninterested in calling out any human rights violation by anybody other than a handful of perceived adversaries: China, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua and Cuba and that’s about it, which is a completely unprincipled approach to human rights which does not attract any adherence and greatly weakens the force of US intervention.”
Roth also held out a warning that China posed the greatest threat to the human rights system and also highlighted threats to human rights in Europe, the plight of Uighurs and the Rohingya and spoke of the dangers of facial recognition technology in undermining privacy.