Reportedly, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is looking to re-enter India into its list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ because of the communal policies pursued by the Modi government, especially its treatment towards the Muslim minority. The Vice Chairman of the Commission, after the release of the annual report, said that perhaps the steepest and the most alarming deterioration in religious freedom conditions was in India. The Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in India potentially expose millions of Muslims to detention, deportation and statelessness when their planned nationwide implementation takes place. The report rightly recommends targeted sanctions against Indian agencies and officials for severe violations of religious freedom.

The world has also witnessed the BJP zealots on a killing spree of Muslims in Delhi and the destruction of their property – including some religious sites – in the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. In the words of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India has been transformed into a majoritarian state, abandoning its secular creed. He also demanded repeal of the Act which has deepened the fissures within the Indian society. In the light of the USCIRF report and remarks of Manmohan Singh, India under Modi stands indicted for its communal polices, particularly targeting the Muslim minority, actions that not only violate international law but also the UN Charter. Thanks to the international media and some conscientious voices across the globe, India has failed to sell its narrative and justifications for the steps taken by it.

But the regrettable aspect of these deplorable Indian actions is that global powers and the UN have not shown the kind of reaction that was required under the circumstances. Particularly the US and its allies, who spare no chance to announce their humanitarian credentials from every convenient rooftop, have exhibited callousness and insensitivity to the sufferings of the Muslims in India by not putting their foot down on the issue because of their strategic partnership and connected commercial interests.

It is the indifferent attitude of these powers that is actually encouraging India to flout international laws, the Geneva Convention and even UN resolutions on Kashmir. The hate and intensity of anti-Muslim feelings among BJP stalwarts can also be gauged from the fact that they are now stigmatising them for the spread of coronavirus in India. People have seen some ugly scenes of Muslim men and youth being severely beaten up as is corroborated by the viral videos of the incidents on social media. An Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy, reacting to these incidents, has remarked that the Indian government was trying to instigate rifts by exploiting the coronavirus issue against Muslims and the world must stop Modi from taking anti-Muslim riotous steps.

The Indian government has not only violated international laws, conventions with regards to minorities within India, but in pursuance of its RSS ideology it has also changed the status of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) by terminating its special status and making it a part of the Indian union in violation of the UN resolutions, while the world and the UN remain passive onlookers. It is also feverishly engaged in changing the demographic realities in IOK. It has enacted a new domicile law which permits Indian citizens to live in IOK as permanent residents. In a related development the Indian government has granted domicile status to more than 3000,000 non-resident Hindus in IOK. It is feared that it might also grant the same status to its 800,000 soldiers and over 600,000 migrant labourers present in the disputed territory. In view of the fact that UN treats Kashmir as a disputed territory, the move is an affront to the international body. It is also a blatant violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention which stipulates that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

These are indeed very dangerous developments as they are not acceptable to the people of IOK who are fighting for their right of self-determination and bearing the brunt of the atrocities of the Indian security forces for the last thirty years, more so since August 5, 2019. The ethnic cleansing of Muslims in India and what the Modi government has done in IOK are clear signs of the sinister designs of the regime and the followers of Hindutva philosophy who want to turn India into a purely Hindu state. All these actions have wide-ranging repercussions for the entire region and beyond, as they threaten peace and security.

The supremacist ideology has already shown its true colours through continued belligerent posturing against Pakistan by India. The practical demonstration of the intentions of the Indian government was seen by the world on February 26, 2019 when in the backdrop of the Pulwama incident, it sent its planes across the border to hit an imaginary terrorist camp at Balakot; a lie which was immediately exposed by international media. It was because of the restraint and sagacity exercised by Pakistan that the incident did not trigger a full-fledged war between the two countries.

Pakistan, with a view to defuse the situation, returned the captured Indian pilot and restricted itself only to defensive action by hitting some Indian targets across the Line of Control (LoC), which was necessary to make the statement that it was fully capable of warding off any danger to its security and territorial territory, while it remained committed to peaceful co-existence with India. We must also thank friendly countries as well, who played a significant part in cooling off the atmosphere.

Pakistan has been warning the world about the dangers lurking on the horizon because of the supremacist ideology pursued by the BJP government. If the world community remains oblivious to the emerging situation in the region and India continues with its anti-Muslim policies and aggressive actions against Pakistan, the chances of an armed conflict between the two nuclear states cannot be ruled out as any miscalculation on either side could do the trick. The UN as a peacekeeping entity, has a responsibility to take notice of the situation. The UN Security Council in particular, must intervene to have its resolutions on Kashmir implemented and also stop India in its tracks from taking steps which endanger peace in the region. Merely reiterating that the solution to the Kashmir dispute needs to be resolved in conformity with the UN charter and the relevant resolutions is not going to dissuade India from what it is doing. The things have come to a point for the UN and the world community to make a choice between war and peace.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist.