A genocide of Muslims in India could be about to take place, an expert said to have predicted the massacre of the Tutsi in Rwanda years before it took place in 1994, has warned.
Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, said during a US congressional briefing there were early “signs and processes” of genocide in the Indian state of Assam and Indian-administered Kashmir.
“We are warning that genocide could very well happen in India,” Stanton said, speaking on behalf of the non-governmental organisation he launched in 1999 to predict, prevent, stop and seek accountability for the crime.
Stanton said genocide was not an event but a process and drew parallels between the policies pursued by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the discriminatory policies of Myanmar’s government against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Among the policies he cited were the revocation of the special autonomous status of Indian-administered Kashmir in 2019 – which stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades – and the Citizenship Amendment Act the same year, which granted citizenship to religious minorities but excluded Muslims.
Stanton, a former lecturer in genocide studies and prevention at the George Mason University in Virginia, said he feared a similar scenario to Myanmar, where the Rohingya were first legally declared non-citizens and then expelled through violence and genocide.
“What we are now facing is a very similar kind of a plot,” he said.
Stanton said the Hindutva ideology was “contrary to the history of India and the Indian constitution and referred to Modi as an “extremist who has taken over the government”.
In 1989, Stanton said he had warned the then-Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana that “if you don’t do something to prevent genocide in your country, there is going to be a genocide here within five years”.
The early warning signs were followed by the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and other Rwandans in 1994.
“We cannot let that happen in India,” Stanton said.
Genocide Watch began warning of genocide in India in 2002, when a three-day period of inter-communal violence in the western Indian state of Gujarat resulted in the killing of more than 1,000 Muslims.
‘Take it seriously’
Aakar Patel, a Bengaluru-based rights activist, writer and the former head of Amnesty International in India, told Al Jazeera that the reports should be taken “very seriously”.
“I think the history on the record of India’s civic violence shows either the state does something that provokes the violence (against Muslims) or does not do enough to stop it,” Patel said.
“I think the government of India needs to take it seriously … The people outside are naturally alarmed when such things are said in India and nothing is done by the state,” he said referring to a recent call for Muslim genocide made at an event by right-wing Hindu groups.
MM Ansari, a former information commissioner and educationist based in New Delhi, termed the report “alarming”. “The fear is very genuine,” he said.
Other experts have denounced rising attacks on Muslim vendors and businesses by Hindu supremacist groups.
In November, Hindu hardliners set fire to the home of a Muslim former foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, who had compared the kind of Hindu nationalism that has flourished under Modi with “extremist groups” such as ISIL (ISIS).
Videos of Hindu religious leaders calling for mass killings and for the use of weapons against Muslims that went viral on social media last month prompted the Supreme Court to order an investigation into hate speech in Uttarakhand state.
“Under BJP’s leadership, India became one of the most dangerous countries for Muslims and Christians in the world. They are being persecuted physically, psychologically and economically,” activist and academic Apoorvanand wrote in an OpEd for Al Jazeera.
“Laws are being passed to criminalise their religious practices, food habits and even businesses.”
Syed Zafar Islam, the spokesperson of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, rejected Genocide Watch’s report, saying “no such things exist as [is] being portrayed”.
“First of all the impression they have created is factually incorrect,” Islam said, adding that many instances being highlighted by the media were far from reality.
“There have been instances (of attacks) but it is not restricted to one community. In society, we have sometimes attacks on each other over reasons like property disputes or other disputes. These things do not only happen between Hindu and Muslims only but they happen among Hindus as well,” he said.
Muslims comprise nearly 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people, while Hindus still form nearly 80 percent of the population.
Modi’s BJP and its ideological parent, the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have warned Hindus about religious conversions to Islam and Christianity, and called for action to prevent a “demographic imbalance” in the world’s second most populous nation.
Modi’s BJP has been accused of encouraging the persecution of Muslims and other minorities by hardline Hindu nationalists since coming to power in 2014, allegations it denies.
Rifat Fareed contributed to this report