It is the duty of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to respond against calls for violence against minorities in India and provide protection to those at risk, former United Nations Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide, Juan E Mendez told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
“One of them [duties of the government] obviously is to investigate, persecute and punish those who have committed crimes under Indian law,” Mendez told the news website. “Not doing that constitutes violations of the Genocide Convention.”
The United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, or Genocide Convention, is an international treaty that criminalises genocide and obligates state parties to enforce its prohibition.
Over the last couple of months, videos have emerged on social media that showed Hindutva supremacists calling for genocide against Muslims, disrupting Christmas celebrations and attacking Christians. They also made lewd comments on Muslim women on online platforms and created apps to put them on “auction”, using fake Sikh names to allegedly create enmity between the two communities.
While arrests have been made in some of these cases, Modi has maintained has not spoken up against them despite appeals to do so from the alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology, former chiefs of staff of the armed forces, over 70 advocates of the Supreme Court and a group of students and faculty members of the Indian Institutes of Management.
In the interview to Al Jazeera, Mendez pointed out that these calls for violence were dangerous and can lead to some people taking them seriously and acting on them. Mendez said that the speeches were being made by people who claim to represent an ethnic group. They were acting as if their statements were protected under freedom of expression, Mendez said.
“After all, making calls for killing millions in any legal context is a crime, the crime of threats at the very least,” the former UN official said. “And so, if there is no appropriate response to it by the government, then I think the international community needs to demand action to limit the possible effects of speech of that sort.”
Mendez also agreed with the evaluation of United States-based Genocide Watch that had issued a genocide alert for India.
“I think Genocide Watch is a very prestigious organisation and its opinion should be carefully considered,” he said. “ [George] Stanton’s 10 Stages of Genocide is a highly respected way of anticipating and preventing genocidal crimes.”
Genocide Watch is a non government organisation that runs campaigns against genocide. In August, the organisation’s founder George Stanton, who has modelled “10 Stages of Genocide”, put India on the eighth stage, which is persecution of a community. The remaining two stages are extermination and denial.
Mendez also told Al Jazeera that some policies of the Modi-led central government are discriminatory against minorities. “These breaches are in a continuum between discrimination to hate speech to violence and eventually to genocide,” he said
Mendez said that the facts were “serious enough” for international forums such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and UN Human Rights Council to express their concern of these incident in India.
“If response from the Modi government isn’t appropriate then the UNSC should step in to protect Indian minorities,” he said.
Mendez added: “I do think it is important for member states at the UN Security Council to start considering whether or not it should be advised to take actions in order to protect the minorities at risk in India.”