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Violence against the ‘other’ in India


Violence against the ‘other’ in India

Christians are not the only minority facing violence and discrimination in India. Muslims and Dalits – also considered minorities in India and who have historically been subjected to the atrocities of caste violence by dominate castes – also face discrimination under the current administration in India.

Christians, Muslims and Dalits are jointly in the cross hairs of Hindutva ideology.

Muslims who make up an estimated 14.2 per cent of the Indian population face significant physical and structural forms of violence in the form of unequal access to state resources. In a report on the first 300 days of the current administration, the authors report 451 instances of physical violence against Muslims. There is increasing evidence which shows marginalization of Muslims within India’s political, economic and social life.

A recent study by French political scientists Jaffrelot and Verniers show that Muslim representation in Parliament is at an all-time low with Muslims representing only 3.5 percent of the Indian parliament. They attribute this decline to the rise of the BJP in the country.

In 2009, the BJP fielded four Muslim candidates and in 2014, they fielded seven candidates further proving their Hindu nationalist credentials. A recent academic study showed India’s Muslims to be the least upwardly mobile group in the country in intergenerational terms. Debunking a claim of Hindu nationalist groups, the study further shows that upper castes remain the most upwardly mobile group. Further, much like their Christian counterparts, Dalit Muslims also experience structural violence in form of denial of government affirmative action and legal protections, as discussed earlier.

Beef bans in several states in the country have led to physical violence and accusations against Dalits and Muslims. Dalits and Muslims are economically impacted by a beef ban as beef trade is historically a Muslim trade. Skinning the animal is considered a profession only Dalits were suited for.

The violence is induced in the form of vigilante groups known as ‘Gau rakshaks’linked to a Hindu Nationalist ideology who view their main work as the protection of the sacred cow.  In 2015, in the outskirts of New Delhi, a Muslim man was beaten and murdered on the suspicion of selling beef. In 2016, in Gujarat, four Dalits were stripped, tied to a car and beaten for hours while community members including police officers looked on.

The media house, The Quint has reported 78 cases of lynching in India from 2015-2018. Most of these have related to rumours of beef butchering, smuggling, or selling and a majority of these have occurred in BJP led states.

Further everyday instances against Dalits appears to have increased under the current administration. According to the annual reports of the National Crime Records Bureau, a 20 per cent increase in registered cases of every day violence and atrocities against Dalits was observed in the country in the first year of the current administration. These are only the cases which are reported to the police and is believed to be underrepresented. The real number is significantly higher.


Instances of Violence against Dalits in India (2010-2015)

Source: By the author, compiled from Data collected from the National Crime Records Bureau in India

The increase in instances of violence has also led to a climate of insecurity amongst these groups. With the general election fast approaching in 2019, these will be used as a means to evaluate the current administration. However, whether it will be enough to bring a change in leadership is uncertain.

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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