There has been no major incident of communal violence in India in the past seven to eight years under the Narendra Modi-led government, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told an European Union delegation on Thursday, The Indian Express reported.

The minister’s response came after the delegation raised concerns about a letter written by former civil servants to the prime minister on incidents of communal violence in the country.

“There have been some isolated incidents, and in these the Modi government has taken strong and effective action against the perpetrators, without consideration of religion, caste or community,’ Naqvi told The Indian Express.

The letter Naqvi was referring to was written by 108 former civil servants on Tuesday to Modi, stating that the government was using legal means to deprive minority communities of their livelihood and forcing them to accept their status as “inferior citizens”.

It was written in the backdrop of arbitrary demolition drives conducted by the Bharatiya Janata Party to raze “illegal structures” in various states. The structures that are razed most often belong to Muslims.

Despite Naqvi’s claims, communal violence had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing the law in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26, 2020. The violence had claimed 53 lives and hundreds were injured. The majority of those killed were Muslims.

Communal violence had also taken place between Hindus and Muslims in several states in April during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti processions. Two persons were killed and several others have been injured in the clashes. Many demolition drives were conducted following the April violence.

Naqvi made the statement during a discussion on the human rights situation in India with the six-member delegation that includes European Union’s special representative for human rights Eamon Gilmore and the bloc’s Ambassador to India Ugo Astuto.

“At meetings with the Indian Government, including Mukhtar Naqvi, Minister for Minorities, I discussed FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act], use of sedition and anti-terrorism laws, detentions, the situation of minorities, communal violence, situation in Jammu Kashmir, and individual cases,” Gilmore tweeted on Friday.

Naqvi said that he informed the delegation about the results of welfare programmes carried out under the Bharatiya Janata Party government “for socio-economic-educational empowerment of all sections of the society including the minorities”.

The minister said that “some people were trying to defame Prime Minister Modi and India as part of a conspiracy”, unidentified officials in the minority affairs ministry told PTI.

He also said that the number of minorities in central government jobs has increased to 10% under the Modi government from 4% in 2014, officials told The Indian Express.

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Ex-civil servants’ letter

The letter was signed by 108 former civil servants, including Harsh Mander, Najeeb Jung, Julio Ribeiro, AS Dulat, KP Fabian, Meena Gupta, and Tirlochan Singh.

“We are witnessing a frenzy of hate-filled destruction in the country where at the sacrificial altar are not just Muslims and members of the other minority communities but the Constitution itself,” the signatories said.

While it was not clear if the political leadership was directly involved in creating a communal frenzy, it was evident that the administration was enabling fringe groups to operate without fear, they said.

The members of fringe groups that are tasked with committing violence are provided with a “master script” about how the propaganda machinery of a party can help them defend their actions, the signatories said.

They noted that similar incidents of communal violence had taken place earlier too. But currently, not only a master plan was being unveiled to prepare a base for creating a Hindu Rashtra but the Constitution was being being “twisted and perverted to make it an instrument of majoritarian tyranny”.

On the demolition drives, the group said it was no wonder bulldozer has become a new metaphor for exercising political and administrative power.

“The edifice built around the ideas of ‘due process’ and ‘rule of law’ stands demolished,” it said. “As the Jahangirpuri incident shows, even the orders of the highest court of the land appear to be treated with scant respect by the executive.”