Extremism in India

The national flag of a country is no doubt the most sacred asset for a nation. A true patriot always considers the flag of his country more important than his own life. History is replete with the names of soldiers who sacrificed their lives just to keep their flag flattering. But there happened something just opposite to it in India on the 26th January, the Republic Day of India when a huge crowd of low-caste Indian Dalits raised the Pakistan flag in Meerut to protest against the series of atrocities they have been suffering from since long. They raised slogans against the Hindu extremists who have deprived them of the basic human rights.

Although the leaders of the protesters were immediately arrested by the security agencies yet their novel way of protest became a hot topic for the world media. This type of protest by the low-caste Hindus on the days of national importance is nothing strange and new. Raising slogans against the Hindu maltreatment and atrocities, burning effigies of national leaders and copies of the Constitution of India, have become a cultural tradition on such occasions. Regarding the Dalit protest on the Republic Day of India, the world known Dalit activist and Professor of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Surinder Singh Jodkha told the South Asia Tribune: “Such incidents are the manifestation of alienation and frustration. I cannot say that Dalits are safe in Pakistan or not. This is not the main question. The main question is if the Dalits are safe in India or not”. According to the sources there are about 140,000 cases of atrocities against Dalits pending in various Indian courts. Justice is delayed for the victims and they feel alienated and frustrated. Neither the law-enforcing agencies nor the courts are willing to take care of these low-caste Hindus. This indifferent attitude of them is turning the lives of these voiceless and helpless citizens of the ‘Democratic India’, into a blazing inferno. In the last August, the international media reported the worst example of human rights violation in India regarding the low-caste Dalits when a nine year old Dalit girl at Faridabad Model School was compelled to parade naked on the school premises after her family failed to deposit the tuition fees. This shocking incident took place only 40 kms away from the national capital in the northern Indian city of Faridabad. The girl was a student of class three.

Jasbeer Singh, the editor of a bi-lingual Punjabi & English monthly magazine, Parivartan, is considered an authority on the internal social and political affairs of India. In one of his recently published articles he has criticized the government of India for ignoring the basic human right of all minorities including the Sikhs. He says, ‘While India never tires of claiming to be ‘the largest democracy’ in the world, one wonders, what did India’s leaders or its government, do to make it so? One of the tests for any ‘democratic’ regimes is how the minorities feel and fare?’ There are three types of minorities in India; Regional, religious and racial and all of them are maltreated in the worst possible manner. That is the reason one finds a state of havoc everywhere in India. From the north-east states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram to the blood-dripping valley of occupied Kashmir; everywhere there is a resounding and resonating tale of human rights violation. The Indian security forces are always busy in a whole-sale massacre. Innocent citizens are abducted, young girls are raped and the properties of the ‘miscreants’ are burnt to ashes. Churches, Mosques and the Gurdwaras; in short, no place of worship is safe from the brutality of Hindu extremists.

Keeping in view the human rights violation in India the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF has placed India on its Watch List. USCIRF is an independent U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.

USCIRF issues its annual report on religious freedom each May. This year’s India chapter was delayed because USCIRF had requested to visit India this summer. The Indian government, however, declined to issue USCIRF visas for the trip. That is why the annual report was released in the second week of August; 2009. Any country that is designated on the USCIRF Watch List requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government. The other countries currently on USCIRF Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.

India earned the Watch List designation due to two basic reasons; first the disturbing increase in communal violence against religious minorities, specifically Christians in Orissa in 2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and secondly the government’s largely inadequate response in protecting its religious minorities. Condemning the communal riots in Gujarat, the Commission says, “The Indian government not only failed to prevent the attacks against religious and racial minorities, but that state and local officials aided and participated in the violence.”

The USCIRF has suggested that Obama Administration must urge the government of India to take new measures to promote communal harmony, protect religious minorities, and prevent communal violence. The recommendations and suggestions of the USCIRF are no doubt very useful and beneficial for the suffering minorities of India but it would be almost impossible for the government of India to act upon these recommendations. Caste discrimination is a cultural trait of the Hindu society and the government of India can never crush the culture of the people it belongs to.Ali Sukhanver

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