Home Editorial Editorial: Muslim Plight in India under Modi

Editorial: Muslim Plight in India under Modi

The world continues to ignore increasing discrimination against Muslims in India

by Editorial

File photo. Biju Boro—AFP

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, speaking at a conference in Washington last week, rebuffed concerns over violence against Muslims in India, claiming the minority community isn’t doing too poorly as its population continues to grow. The obvious falsehood was uttered without taking into account how Indian Muslims, numbering around 200 million, continue to face discrimination in employment, education and housing, and are increasingly subjected to communal violence as the Narendra Modi-led government seeks curbs on their fundamental rights.

Over the past two decades, Muslim representation in India’s parliament has stagnated, with the minority comprising just 5 percent of the lawmakers in the Lok Sabha after the 2019 elections. Separately, reports have found that roughly half of Indian police show an anti-Muslim bias, making them less likely to intervene to stop crimes against Muslims. There is also widespread impunity for attacks on Muslims, with Indian states increasingly passing laws restricting their religious freedoms in the form of anti-conversion laws and bans on wearing headscarves in school. Authorities often resort to extrajudicial means to punish Muslims, through a practice critics call “bulldozer justice.”

In August 2019, Modi diminished Jammu and Kashmir’s status as India’s only Muslim-majority state by splitting it into two union territories and abrogating its special constitutional status. Since then, authorities have increasingly cracked down on local residents, often under the guise of maintaining security. In 2021 alone, internet services in the region were blocked 85 times, while journalists continue to be harassed and arrested, and prominent political figures and activists detained. Despite government claims of the security situation improving, dozens of civilians have been killed by armed groups since 2019.

The world has willfully turned a blind eye to India’s human rights violations. When then-U.S. President Donald Trump visited India in February 2020, he praised Modi’s commitment to religious freedom, saying nothing about the plight of the Muslims. The incumbent Joe Biden administration has reportedly voiced concerns in private, but continues to expand cooperation with India in trade and security. In its 2020 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom classified India as a “country of particular concern”—its lowest rating—for the first time since 2004, and urged Washington to sanction Indian officials responsible for abuses. Some members of the U.S. Congress have also expressed concerns. But with India posing an attractive counter to China—the villain-du-jour of the U.S.—Washington regularly abandons its own principles to align with India, betraying the indifference that is now commonplace in matters of foreign policy.

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