‘UNSC should step in to protect Indian minorities’

Dozens of Hindu religious leaders and politicians gathered last month for a meeting in Haridwar, a prominent pilgrimage site for Hindus in the northern Uttarakhand state, where multiple speakers called on the community to arm themselves for a genocide against the Muslim minority.

“Even if just 100 of us become soldiers and kill two million of them, we will be victorious,”  Sadhvi Annapurna Maa of the far-right Hindu Mahasabha (Grand Assembly of Hindus) told a cheering crowd at the event.

The videos of the meeting went viral on social media, sparking outrage and prompting calls for the arrest of those who openly called for the killings. In the month since, two speakers have been arrested while others roam free as the police say they are investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, experts have raised an alarm. During a congressional briefing in the United States, Professor Gregory Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, warned in unambiguous words that a “genocide could very well happen in India”.

In August last year, Stanton, who has modelled 10 Stages of Genocide, put India on the 8th stage, i.e. persecution of a community. The remaining two stages are extermination and denial.

Juan E Mendez is the first United Nations Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide (2004-2007), appointed by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He also served as the president and commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and as the UN Special Rapporteur on torture. Currently, he is a professor of human rights law at the American University in Washington, DC.

Mendez has termed the situation in India, home to 200 million Muslims, “dangerous” and “deeply disturbing”. Al Jazeera spoke to him about the explicit calls for genocide against the minority and what the international community, including the UN, can do to prevent it.

Al Jazeera: How do you see calls for violence by Hindu extremist leaders in the Haridwar meeting?

Juan E Mendez: I see them with a lot of concern, especially in the context where there have been decades of hostility towards the minority communities. The calls for active violence are much more dangerous and part of the equation, and particularly in this context, it could lead to some people taking those calls seriously, acting on them, and provoking others, too.

In this case, I would look for the worse, which is noting that these speeches were made by non-state actors, i.e. people who claim to represent their ethnic group, who act as if it is protected speech and under freedom of expression, like if it was just an opinion.

After all, making calls for killing millions in any legal context is a crime, the crime of threats at the very least. And so, if there is no appropriate response to it by the government, then I think the international community needs to demand action to limit the possible effects of speech of that sort.

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