Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim agenda has been emboldened due to the failure of the West to call him out on human rights abuses.
HRW investigates human rights abuses across the world, and its executive director said during an exclusive interview with Newsweek that the United States President Donald Trump’s “unprincipled approach” to human rights is the reason behind the Indian PM being “emboldened” in his actions to undermine the rights of Muslims.
“Modi has largely got away with his anti-Muslim agenda and his oppression of protests against it, that is the relative lack of criticism from the West has only emboldened him on this abusive path,” Roth added.
He said Modi’s “systematic discrimination against Muslims and his tolerance of violence against Muslims” has been allowed to carry on owing to this goal.
The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party leader “was banned from both the UK and the US for his role in the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots, in which more than 1,000 people were killed in communal violence, most of them Muslims”, noted the report.
“At the time, Modi was the then chief minister of Gujarat and stood accused of allowing the anti-Muslim riots to go ahead,” it said.
The report further informs that the United Nations have labelled the citizenship law passed by Modi’s government as “fundamentally discriminatory.”
Striking at the core of India’s secular Constitution, this citizenship law offers amnesty to non-Muslim undocumented migrants from India’s neighbouring countries and excludes Muslims.
Speaking on the actions in Kashmir, Roth said, “His withdrawal of Kashmir’s special constitutional status and the subsequent crackdown on dissent, shutting down the internet, all are part of this broader anti-Muslim element of BJP policy which Modi either participates in actively or simply tolerates, including the so-called cow-vigilantes, who are basically vigilantes who attack Muslims.”
According to the report, HRW described the use of communal rhetoric of protecting the cow, an animal considered sacred, by members of the ruling BJP “as encouraging attacks on minorities who consume beef or engage in the cattle trade”.
Roth posited that the reason India is not being called out by the West is due to capitalistic reasons.
“[Kashmir is] one piece of a larger anti-Muslim agenda which the West has largely ignored. India is a major power, a major country. There is increasing tension with China and some just soften the criticism of India because they see it as an ally in competition with China,” he said.
“Trump is utterly uninterested in calling out any human rights violation by anybody other than a handful of perceived adversaries: China, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua and Cuba and that’s about it, which is a completely unprincipled approach to human rights which does not attract any adherence and greatly weakens the force of US intervention.”
US State Department spokesperson said in response to Ross’s remarks, “Promoting, protecting, and advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms is a top priority for the United States.
“We support human rights defenders in a wide variety of environments, and support programmes and policies to help countries solidify their role as or develop into democratic and human rights-respecting partners.
“Countering the malign actions of authoritarian states, including their attempts to undermine democratic governance and redefine human rights through tools such as disinformation, is a key part of the Department’s work and a focus of our partnerships with like-minded governments and international organisations.”