"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Conversation on attacks on religious minorities in India held on Kandhmal Day Featured

Scholar Kamal Arora and journalist Rana Ayyub have each examined how majoritarian violence in India has targeted minorities. Scholar Kamal Arora and journalist Rana Ayyub have each examined how majoritarian violence in India has targeted minorities.

 

While activists across India observed August 25 as Kandhmal Day in commemoration of the victims of anti Christian pogrom in 2008, a conversation was held at the University of British Columbia (UBC) on growing attacks on religious minorities under Modi government.

Held at the CK Choi Building in UBC, the conversation was between visiting journalist from India Rana Ayyub and the Vancouver-based researcher Kamal Arora. While Ayyub has authored Gujarat Files, a book based on her investigation of the complicity of the government in violence against Muslims in Gujarat, Arora has done Phd. on the widows of the anti Sikh carnage of 1984. Both the incidents were engineered by the ruling parties to target minorities.

The Gujarat massacre of Muslims in 2002 started after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire under mysterious circumstances. The incident that left more than 50 passengers dead was blamed on the Muslims by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then. The surviovors of the violence and human rights activists continue to maintain that he was directly involved in the bloodshed.

The technique used to target Muslims was similar to the one used by the so called secularist Congress government in Delhi in 1984 to attack Sikhs. The anti Sikh massacre was followed by the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress leaders were seen inciting the mobs to “teach Sikhs a lesson”.

Following both massacres, the BJP and the Congress benefited during the elections that followed ugly political events by polarizing Hindu majority against Muslims and Sikhs respectively.

Both Ayyub and Arora agreed that there were striking similarities between the two episodes and reflects badly on India that is otherwise known as world’s largest secular democracy. Ayyub insisted that if justice was done to the Sikhs in 1984, 2002 would not have happened.

The impunity enjoyed by those involved in these crimes gave encouragement to similar pogroms in the years to come. In August 2008, anti Christian violence broke out in Kandhmal, Odisha following the assassination of a Hindu seer by the Maoists. Yet, the BJP supporters targeted innocent Christians after falsely accusing the Christian missionaries for the murder.

Ayyub acknowledged the significance of the Kandhmal Day on the occasion and reminded the audience of the growing attacks on minorities in India ever since Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. Both panelists emphasized that the minorities need to join hands to fight back against majoritarianism and the process of othering minority communities in India by a government that was determined to transform a pluralist nation into Hindu theocracy.

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