At the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Chief Volker Türk, raised the alarm, pointing out that his office “frequently receives information that marginalised minority communities are subjected to violence and discrimination”.
The nearly 10-year term of the country’s Hindu nationalist government — led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — has seen escalating violence and conflict against Muslims, who make up its largest minority — and a steady weakening of democratic institutions that could stand in the way.
Last month’s bulldozer demolitions in the town of Nuh are not new — they follow an insidious pattern of decentralised intimidation and reveal a terrifying project underway: “Islamophobia is no longer a fringe sentiment in India. It has become a state-manufactured ideology,” read the warning issued by Genocide Watch earlier this year.
Riots spread across the state of Haryana the same month after a violent Hindutva supremacist rally, leading to over 200 injuries. The state of Manipur has been engulfed by violence and insecurity since May, with over 70,000 people displaced — and next to no response from the ruling government.
On the one hand, hate has free rein. Hindu vigilante groups are allowed to organize public demonstrations, rallies, and meetings, often brazenly calling for the murder of Muslims. In 2023, over 400 “incidents of hate” were recorded in 23 of 29 states. Elected figures have indulged in violent Islamaphobic rhetoric: Chief Minister of India’s most populous state Yogi Adityanath, who is widely considered to be Modi’s successor, has talked about “feeding bullets” to Muslim troublemakers. They enjoy complete impunity.
On the other, democratic institutions have been systematically incapacitated. Media houses and civil society groups have been subject to lawfare; India was ranked 161 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index this year. Civil society activists languish in jail without trial; the ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’ meant to curb terrorism is used to routinely imprison dissenters. Municipal corporations target “illegal settlements” for demolition in select Muslim-majority areas; last week’s bulldozers only stopped when the high court intervened on its own accord and issued a notice to the government.
When so-called “sectarian violence” erupts, whose flames are stoked by hate-spewing politicians, the authorities are quick to impose curfews, suspend internet services, and deploy paramilitary forces — but arrest warrants rarely list non-Muslim names.
All the while, Prime Minister Modi and his government have remained deafeningly silent: And in their silence, they have made their position clear: state sanction for violence against minorities.
We, the undersigned, are gravely concerned — about this brazen bulldozer regime — and the ensuing demolition of India’s democracy.
You can sign join us in signing the statement below.
Cornel West, US Presidential Candidate, Union Theological Seminary, USA
Yanis Varoufakis, MeRA25 leader, DiEM25 co-founder, Former Minister of Finance, Greece
Walden Bello, State University of New York at Binghamton
Vijay Prashad, Director, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
Slavoj Žižek, Prof.Dr., Co-Director of the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities, University of London, United Kingdom
Silvia Federici, Professor, USA
Zarah Sultana, Member of UK Parliament, United Kingdom
Clarissa Mendoza, Head of the Secretariat, Movement for Agrarian Reform and Social Justice , Philippines
Annie Raja, National General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Women, India