Indian-American author Padma Lakshmi and German footballer Mesut Ozil tweeted on Wednesday condemning violence against Muslims in India and called upon citizens to speak out on the matter.
“Sickening to see the violence against Muslims celebrated in India,” said Lakshmi in a series of tweets. “The widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric preys on fear and poisons people. This propaganda is dangerous and nefarious because when you consider someone less than it’s much easier to participate in their oppression.”
In another tweet, Padma Lakshmi asked Indian Hindus to not succumb to fear-mongering, adding that there was no threat to the religion in the country. “True spirituality doesn’t include any room for sowing hatred of any kind, she wrote. “People of all faiths should be able to live peacefully together in this ancient, vast land.”
She also tweeted three news reports that documented various atrocities against Muslims in India, and how social media has been weaponised to target the community.
In several parts of the country in the past few months, hate speech and calls for genocide against Muslims have been made. Hindutva supremacists have threatened to rape Muslim women and online abusers have created apps to put them on “auctions”. Accused persons in many of these cases have even been granted bail. Repeat offenders like seer Narsinghanand Saraswati have made inflammatory comments while being out on bail in hate speech cases.
In February, Hindu students and mobs of men protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes in Karnataka. At some colleges, Muslim students were heckled, while in another case, some men climbed up a flagpole to plant a saffron flag and broke into classrooms.
Meanwhile, Ozil on Wednesday asked his Twitter followers to speak up and create awareness about the treatment of Muslims in India.
“Praying during the holy night of Lailat al-Qadr for the safety and well-being of our Muslim brothers and sisters in India,” he wrote. “Let’s spread awareness to this shameful situation! What is happening to the human rights in the so-called largest democracy in the world? #BreakTheSilence.”
The remarks came a day after over 100 former Indian Administrative Services officers wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government was using legal means to deprive minority communities of their livelihood and forcing them to accept their status as “inferior citizens”. They said that anti-conversion laws, ban on beef, demolition drives, and uniform dress in educational institutions were being used to “strike fear” among members of the minority communities.
“Your silence, in the face of this enormous societal threat, is deafening,” the group said.
In Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party-run administrations have conducted demolition drives to remove allegedly illegal structures. The demolitions undertaken days after communal clashes targeted shops and houses owned by Muslims.
On April 12, a US Department of State report had flagged discrimination against minorities in India, extrajudicial killings, degrading treatment or punishment by the police and prison officials and arbitrary arrests and detentions by government authorities among other concerns.
The report noted incidents where Muslim men were paraded in public and forced to chant “Jai Shree Ram” in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur and police shootings during the eviction of villagers belonging to the community in Assam’s Darrang district last year.
The reports also mentioned that the laws against religious conversions have been used to target Muslims. Bharatiya Janata Party-led state governments in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have enacted anti-conversion laws since last year to penalise “love jihad”. The term has been used by Hindutva outfits to push the conspiracy theory that Muslim men lure Hindu women into marrying them with the sole purpose of converting their brides to Islam.
The Citizenship Amendment Act and the exclusion of Muslims from its provisions was also noted in the report.