Against the alarming call to genocide of nearly 250 million Indian Muslims made by Sadhus, Hindu holy men, in India, two leading intellectuals added their voices of concern for Hindutva genocidal rhetoric and Islamophobia to the call for the restoration of communal harmony and religious pluralism in India. Tapan Kumar Bose is a renowned documentary film-maker, journalist and veteran rights activist from New Delhi and Barbara Harriss-White is Emeritus Professor at Wilson College, Oxford University who has devoted half-century of her career specializing in the political economy of India’s rural societies.
In his opening remark as the Chair of the global on-line event webcast LIVE on FORSEA YouTube Channel, Tapan Kumar Bose traced the record of organized violent attacks against India’s Muslims by the ruling BJP party and its Fascist-inspired ideological vision for India cleansed of Muslims and others: “the BJP came to power on the shoulders of a movement that is opposed to India’s secular constitution that endeavoured to rise above the scarred legacy of the partition. In these circumstances, … a section of the ruling party and police were allegedly complicit in the events in Haridwar, calling for genocide of Muslims…”
Based on her half-century of research, the Oxford scholar called attention to “… that longstanding, day to day practices of economic discrimination also have this potential – which we must all deplore.”
Global events and initiatives aimed at preventing yet another state-sanctioned genocide in India – after neighbouring Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide – are planned in USA including the Congressional briefing on 9 February organized by a coalition of human rights organization including Hindus for Human Rights and Indian American Muslim Council, which co-sponsored the FORSEA event on 4 February 2022.
Chair’s Opening Remark at the Scream From the Global Civil Society Against Genocide of Muslims in India
Tapan Kumar Bose
Journalist, filmmaker, writer and activist
“The BJP came to power on the shoulders of a movement that is opposed to India’s secular constitution that endeavoured to rise above the scarred legacy of the partition. In these circumstances, … a section of the ruling party and police were allegedly complicit in the events in Haridwar, calling for genocide of Muslims…” Tapan Kumar Bose
At the outset I want to thank my friend Maung Zarni and all the co-sponsors of this global call against genocide of Muslim citizens of India. I am overwhelmed by the wide and spontaneous response from so many intellectuals, academics, artistes, survivors of genocide, musicians and writers. This gives us strength, We will carry on the struggle against the forces of fascism and defeat this evil.
The genocide of Rwanda, Bosnia and Myanmar perhaps could have been prevented or at least their intensity reduced, if only the international community had taken note of the early warnings and taken preventive measures. In India, too, we did not heed the genocidal violence against Muslims in 2002, the state of Gujarat then ruled by Narendra Modi.
The trigger then was fire on a train compartment in which 58 Hindu pilgrims were killed. Unleashed was three days of mass killing of Muslims in Guajrat. Hindu mobs torched Muslim homes and businesses, killed Muslim men, women and children, and erased mosques and graves allegedly with complicity of police and political leaders. More than two thousand killed, over 100,000 Muslims were pushed into the state’s decrepit refugee camps. Gujarat 2002 was the first pogrom in Independent India.
While the liberal, and secularist people were stunned, the propagators of Hindu nationalism, India’s Hindu right, read the Gujarat violence differently. The RSS, the main socio-ideological force behind Hindu nationalism, said, ‘‘Let the minorities understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority”. All other religions must “assimilate” to India’s Hindu core, accepting Hindus as superior citizens.
Unfortunately, the liberal and left political parties saw Gujarat as an aberration, as indeed they did the1992 razing of the Babri Mosque by a Hindu mob while the top BJP leadership looked on. They did not see that the Hindu Nationalist had successfully infiltrated the populist anti-corruption movement of 2011-2012, which was based on the idea that the people were pure and the ruling elite, the Congress Party and the intellectual class were corrupt. The liberal and the left parties lost the election 2014 general elections, and BJP came to power with Modi as Prime Minister projecting himself as the Man of Development– the architect of Gujarat’s golden era, which made sixty million Gujaratis prosperous and proud. All India’s captains of industry’ lined up to back Modi’s pro-business politics. The pro-corporate media successfully popularised the slogan that Modi is “good for business”. And in convincing the jobless and the poor. With a populist ideology based on the domination of the Hindu majority and on the idea that minorities constitute a threat to the nationhood, Modi swept general elections of May 2019—a mandate to drive without stops their ideological agenda of constructing one Hindu nation. Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva is used by RSS to carry the concept of Hindu supremacy, differentiating the true citizens from “the others”, the minorities .
On a monthly average 20 Christians killed in 2018, it went up to 30in the first quarter of 2019. Attacks on Muslims continue with impunity-during 2021 there were 11 instances of lynching in which about 15 Muslims were killed by Hindu vigilante groups. Secularists and independent thinkers and writers are targeted and killed.
Dissent has been criminalised under a whole slew of anti-national laws, against journalists, HRD, advocates, civil society activists. Working of civil Society organisations is obstructed by Kafkaesque regulations and punitive action. In 2018, nearly twenty thousand NGOs found their licenses and registration cancelled. Government driven narrative is all pervasive with no independent narrative.
Statutory institutions- the Courts and Election Commission have been compromised. Of concern is the politicisation of the Indian Army encouraged by the late chief of defence staff’s political activism. Right-wing social media propaganda was circulated and debate encouraged in the barracks. Identifying individuals on the basis of their political affiliation is not good for the forces’ integrity.
The extent to which we condone hate speech was dramatically evident December 2021 when a conclave of Sadhus (Holy men and women) directly called for genocide of Muslims. One speaker said, “Like Myanmar, the police, politicians, the army and every Hindu in India must pick up weapons and do this cleansing. There is no other option left.” Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party said, “If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill 2 million (Muslims), then we will win … protect India, and make it a Hindu nation.”
As Jews in Nazi Germany were called “rats” and Tutsis in Rwanda in the 1990s were called “cockroaches,” so BJP members now refer to Indian Muslims as “termites” eating away at India’s resources, denying Hindus what is due to them in their own land. The founding fathers of the RSS-BJP were deeply inspired by the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini.
Hate speech that could trigger violence is a cognizable offence. Prime Minister Modi and his cabinet colleagues have maintained a studied remained silence. Only after a nation-wide outrage largely over social media did a reluctant police act. Retired defence chiefs, management graduates, lawyers of the Supreme Court and scores of opposition leaders sought PM Narendra Modi’s urgent attention to this compelling issue. They reminded him that the call for genocide could engulf the country into hellish religious fires return of the holocaust of 1947, lower the defence preparedness of the country at a time when there is threat from its hostile neighbours, China and Pakistan.
In increasing frequency and ferocity, Muslims are threatened, lynched, beaten, raped, and murdered, and their homes, businesses, and mosques vandalized and attacked. Disturbingly, there’s been little action taken against the perpetrators. Lynching of Muslims by Hindu nationalists are so commonplace today that the attacks are often organized on social media or instant messaging applications, with video footage of the attack uploaded online for the world to see.
The BJP came to power on the shoulders of a movement that is opposed to India’s secular constitution that endeavoured to rise above the scarred legacy of the partition. In these circumstances, when a section of the ruling party and police were allegedly complicit in the events in Haridwar, calling for genocide of Muslims, there is no hope for justice. Anyone who seems to disagree with them are in their crosshairs, including scores of women journalists, who are routinely subjected to online aggression. If the clergy goes unpunished, then these trends will become a norm.
Watch the full “A Scream from Global Civil Society: India Genocide Warning” event on YouTube
Communal Relations in India’s Economy
Written remark delivered at A Scream from Global Civil Society: India Genocide Warning
Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, Queen Elizabeth House
& Emeritus Fellow, Wilson College
University of Oxford
“… that longstanding, day to day practices of economic discrimination also have this potential – which we must all deplore.”
India is a religiously plural society. If we heed Kancha Ilaiah and discount Bahujans from the Hindu fold, caste Hindus are under half the population. Muslims made up 9.8% of the population in 1951 and 14 % in 2011 – 172m people, about 200m now.
India’s religions are etched into the economy. Although there’s no evidence that Hindu caste relations obstruct the growth of the economy, the founding fathers of Independent India are on record as regarding caste as a barrier to factor and labour mobility. But they were confident that the steel frame of the state and the animal spirits of the market together would ‘automatically’ dissolve the obscurantism of Hinduism.
This has not happened. Religion has not been relegated to the private sphere.
Part of the explanation for why this hasn’t happened relates to the formal and practical irrationalities embedded in the state. India’s conception of secularity means respect for all religions but, through at least two processes, has generated a perverse practical outcome. 1. Equal respect has morphed over time to toleration of inequality between religions – and that towards Hinduism as the national secular religion – and as Hinduism as the dominant religion and then as Hindutva as a totalising concept of Hindu-ness. 2. Regulative law has been both contested and selectively enforced leaving space to for regulation by social forces. Among them is the ‘big religion’ which Weber had said might dissolve other customary rules which compete in the economy. Religion is one of India’s social structure of accumulation. But it is also part of the carapace of institutions which are a social structure of discrimination.
Economic tensions reflecting discrimination escalate into political violence.
The history of communal riots and pogroms is a long one, one to which others today have borne witness and which has roots in pre Independence India. Since 2014, the Hindutva family and its armies have been emboldened – spreading camps for weapons training and preparation for civil war. Religion is also a mask for criminal attacks with impunity from the police. In 2020, communal clashes nearly doubled over the year before while arrests from these events dropped by 14%.1 In fact since mid December 2021 in conventions in Haridwar, Delhi, Raipur and Ghaziabad there have been calls for the genocide of all Muslims (and in some calls all religious minorities and all Communists) (Z.U. Salam Frontline Jan 28th 2022 p15). Condemned by the Congress Party and CPI(M) there’s been silence from other parties and a deafening even unconstitutional2 silence from the PM.
While Lemkin defined genocide as the intent to destroy a people, politicide is the exclusion of a people from power, the elimination of a people from being thought to be a threat to a political elite’s hegemony. Discrimination where a people is treated unequally and in a prejudiced way does not necessarily lead to either politicide or genocide but it’s an existing condition, a context, for both.
While others have warned about the speed with which hate speech can morph into violence I want to use my time to talk about two dimensions of discrimination in the economy. These flare into violence. They are slow motion preconditions for violence. They are part of Galtung’s structure of violence.
The first is the day to day discrimination faced by Muslim in the business economy. The second looks a little more deeply at what’s afoot in the livestock economy.
Small town business economy. Muslims are not the only social identity group discriminated against in the business economy – dalits (SC) and tribals (ST) also face systemic discrimination. Indeed we can identify whole regions of discrimination which we have mapped in an Atlas.3 The south of the subcontinent which has been regarded by scholars to be pro poor. But in business – it’s anti dalit – which is another process entirely.
Meanwhile self employment is the commonest kind of employment in India where 92% livelihoods are unregistered. So informal livelihoods have to be researched through survey statistics and fieldwork. This is how we can explore Muslims in business among other businesses in two small towns.4 We find that Muslim firms are confined to certain sectors – fruit and veg, metal and auto repair, transport and fancy goods, non veg meals hotels – and retail rather than manufacture..They are small family businesses with low rates of return and low life expectancy. Disadvantaged by Hindu businessmen in credit markets at higher interest, in contact and business information in market prices (contracts are refused, raw material are more costly and prices of finished products lower, reimbursement takes longer), they hardly grow in size and are unable to diversify. With little change since liberalisation in 1991 these relations are the seedbed for politicide and violence when Muslim firms compete directly with Hindu firms.5
The livestock economy is 25% of agricultural GDP and provides livelihoods for 9 % of the population. India produces 20% of the world’s cattle and buffaloes, it’s the number 1 producer of milk, has been a top exporter of beef, the world’s second largest producer of leather and shoes – the industry is worth $27bn and employs 3m people and in 2015 its exports amount to $6bn.
All this activity requires the slaughter of animals yet the cow has always been sacred to Hindus.
The livestock economy is disproportionately a sector for Muslims and Dalits. Muslim livelihoods are grounded in agriculture and its multipliers – renting out draught animals, cattle transport and trade, slaughter, tanning and leather work and processing of other parts of cattle carcasses.
Markets for beef in India are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, SC and ST consumers.
But huge tensions are being generated – since 2005 – cow slaughter has been banned – now in 20/28 states (but not in NE, W Bengal and Kerala and some states allow old unviable milk cows and male calves to be killed). 2017 the BJP government banned all sale of cattle for slaughter but had to drop this – after widespread protests.
We watch the increasing mobilisation of cow vigilantes – gau rakshasa – which feel free to assault Muslim suspects with meat (any meat). Case of Pehlu Khan’s death was recorded on cellphone and broadcast nationally on TV. 86% of those killed in cow-related violence are Muslim and rest Dalit.
But also between 2014-17 over 200k live cattle seized from Muslims, cooped up in shelters and then sold to Hindus for agricultural work! $36m worth of cattle have been stolen in this way by gau rakshas.
Starving feral cows are starting to be reported invading and rampaging through fields.
The outcomes for Muslims include 1-3 m livelihoods destroyed in the livestock economy before 2017 alone. And more in multiplier industries: leather and shoes. And countless more in domestic work of women – gloves and leather goods.6 The wages of those still in work have dropped.
Massive amounts of foreign exchange have been lost – exports declined by 40-50% from 2015 to 2020 – international demand dropped. India falls down the ranks of countries participating in the global leather industry.
These are simply two examples of Muslims in India’s economy. 7
We see the genocidal impulse in which the victim is outside the bounds of social obligation and humanisation and morally loaded as evil is a social construct, a social process.
The India I first visited in 1969 was a pluralist society striving for secularism democracy and socialism. With many liberal intellectuals then, I did believe that Weber’s steel frame (the state) and Smith’s animal spirits (the markets) would prevail over the obscurantism of religions. Much progress has been achieved. Average life expectation has risen from 48 to 70.
But that for Muslims is estimated as 10 year less and average. India is moving towards a form of social fascism in which Muslims are the largest and most dangerous moral ‘other’ among other ‘others’.
Colleagues have spoken today of the rapidity with which rhetoric and hate speech can be translated into violence. I argue here that longstanding, day to day practices of economic discrimination also have this potential – which we must all deplore.
- 1-2000 communal event depending on your source. Time of India report from Lok Sabha 2-2-22)
- In India’s constitution there’s a duty to promote harmony and brotherhood)
- 2014 Barbara Harriss-White, Elisabetta Basile, Anita Dixit, Pinaki Joddar, Aseem Prakash and Kaushal Vidyarthee) DALITS AND ADIVASIS IN INDIA’S BUSINESS ECONOMY: Three Essays and an Atlas, New Delhi Three Essays Press
- Their identities cannot be revealed.
- Here’s an example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_Coimbatore_riots
- On top of the devastation after demonetisation, GST and labour law ‘reform’. And non –relief during COVID-19
- See B Harriss-White India Working – e-book.