Islamabad - Religious minorities in India are living in a hostile environment and the space for them is shrinking rapidly exposing its claim of being a secular state, speakers said on Wednesday.

Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) organised a roundtable conference on ‘Violations of Religious Minorities –Muslims & Sikhs – in India’.

The speakers said that use of force and violation of the rights of religious minorities at the hands of Hindu extremists backed by the Indian government has become a common occurrence.

“In such a hostile environment of coercion, denial of equal rights and discrimination, space for India’s religious minorities is fast shrinking, laying bare the falsehood of the Indian Constitution and its claims of being a secular state,” they viewed.

Acting President of the Institute Brig (R) SohailTirmizi, SI (M) outlined the importance of the roundtable in order to awaken the world conscience against the brutalities on Indian Muslims and Sikhs primarily, but also against innocent unarmed Kashmiris, Christians and Harijans by India.

In the session chaired by Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President & Executive Director, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad,Mr. Khalid Rahman, Director General, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad spoke on Indian Secularism and Policy towards Religious Minorities: Myth and Reality (Case of Muslims).

“The reason India chose secularism over Hinduism—constitutionally — is not by choice, it is rather because of inescapable political needs of the country,” said DG IPS.

According to him, the reason why incidents of abuse and mistreatment have been and are taking place against religious minorities in India is because secularism in the country is merely an arrangement for political gains, without any commitment to its core values.

He pointed out that since Modi’s BJP government came into power, Muslims have been targeted under various hate campaigns such as ‘Ghar Wapsi’, ‘Love Jehad’, and most recently in the name of cow vigilantes and ban on beef slaughtering.

Quoting a 2017 report by India Spend, he informed that in the 63heinous hate incidents during 2010–2017, 86 per cent of the victims were Muslims and 98 per cent of these incidents occurred after Narendra Modi assumed power.

He recommended that to gain representation in political and administrative avenues, Indian Muslims need to devise innovative and comprehensive socio-academic strategies with which they can empower themselves and protect their rights.

Networking and alliances with the ‘saner’ elements in Indian society should also be an essential part of their strategy. While in the international arena, there have been voices raised at the United Nations, as well as reports by rights’ organizations, the need is to make these voices strong enough to put real pressure on India to be fair to its minorities, he stressed.

Dr Muhammad Mujeeb Afzal, Assistant Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Islamabad discussed the Plight of Muslim Community and Indian Atrocities on the Kashmiris. 

He outlined that Indian Muslims are victims of the ‘Indian Myth of nationhood and socio-cultural integration of Hindu majority which is deeply entrenched in their discriminatory caste/class system. He added that in India, no recognition has ever been given to religious minorities constitutionally.

However, during the entire process, the important issue for Muslims was how to protect themselves and their values in order to emerge as a community with their own political identity.

Dr Mujeeb pointed out that politically India’s reliance on aggression against minorities ensures a large vote bank since the presence of religious minorities is perceived to be a hurdle in the process of national integration.