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India has chosen a path of exclusion and persecution for religious minorities: CMRI report

The CMRI report provides data on hate crimes against religious minorities, and touches upon their portrayal on news media, status of educational institutions, among other aspects

Sabrangindia 25 Nov 2022

attack on minoritiesImage: The Indian Express

The Council of Minority Rights in India (CMRI) published a report on the Religious Minorities in India in November 2022. Through this report, Socio-Political Status of Religious Minorities in India in the year 2021 has been documented, through collecting primary and secondary data. The report emphasized on the sudden rise in calls for genocides, economic and social boycotts, rape threats to Muslim women, rise in Hindu vigilante groups have resulted in lynching or lynchings of innocent Muslim men, vandalising Christian prayer meetings, and moral policing couples on Valentine’s Day, which displays the growing extremism in the society. the report aims to depicts how it is becoming more and more dangerous to speak freely, think freely and even possess books which may give a message different to the one the current regime is propagating. It is in this socio-political context that this report attempts to document the violence and provide perspectives to the growing intolerance.

Who are the religious minorities of India?

The Ministry of Welfare, Government of India notified five religious communities, the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Parsis), as minority communities on 23rd October 1993. The Jains were later notified on 27th January 2014, as a minority community. As per the 2011 census, the above-mentioned six religious minorities constitute 19.4% of the total population. Muslims are the largest minority in India that constitute 14.2% of the total population, whereas Christians and Sikhs constitute 2.3% and 1.7%, respectively.

Hate Crimes: Case of Religious Minorities in India-

The report refers to issue of rising hate crimes against minorities in India, and the bias that leads to it. The report has gone into the detail of how the right-wing ecosystem in India represents a weaponisation of emotions and information to manipulate India’s entire political and societal landscape. The report then goes into how spreading of fake news and misinformation, along with state complicity and state impunity, become to weapons of pushing the political propaganda. As provided in the road, fear or threat from minorities is spread and broadcasted by right-wing outfits, through targeted campaigns, political mobilisation and media (news, entertainment, and social).

Referring to jurisprudence and legislations against hate crime, the report states that India has no such legislation that addresses prejudice motivated crimes or hate crimes. The cases filed against hate crime offenders are usually under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), however, they are hardly filed, as the police officials are not cooperative because of the nexus of the impunity in the country against minority communities. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989, which is poorly implemented across the nation, is the only hate crime legislation.

Anti-lynching laws were framed and passed in four state legislative assemblies, namely Manipur, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, keeping in view the rising cases of mob lynching in India. But these bills were not implemented.

Since there is an absence of a legal framework that specifies crimes and compartmentalises violence committed against religious minorities with a biased motive into hate crime, a path is paved for the under-reporting of crimes committed, making the numbers of hate crime incidents much less credible.

As per the data provided in the report, in the year 2021, a total of 294 incidents of hate crimes were documented against religious minorities, out of which 192 were against Muslims, 95 against Christians and 7 against the Sikh community. The Christian community was predominantly targeted on allegations of forceful conversion. The Muslim community was chiefly targeted on allegations of inter-faith relationships and cow slaughter. Hate crimes against Sikhs were not documented at all and were also not reported by news media. The perpetrators are majorly right-wing vigilantes or Hindu extremist groups.[1]

The report also provides the types of violence and crimes that the religious minorities had to face in the year 2021, which is as follows:

Type of Offence

Religious Minorities

Total

 

Muslims

Christians

Sikhs

 

Attack on Religious Place/Worship

7

30

2

51

Communal Tension/Riot

11

0

0

11

Denial Of Access to Public Space

11

1

0

12

Discrimination

4

2

1

7

Hate Speech

20

3

0

23

Harassment

14

10

1

25

Lynch/Murder

26

1

1

28

Online

3

0

0

3

Physical Assault

63

26

0

89

Police Violence

7

7

2

16[2]

Sexual Violence/Assault

4

0

0

4

Threat/Intimidation

6

14

0

20

Vandalism

4

1

0

5

Minorities on Prime Time: An inquiry into the portrayal of Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs on Television News

The report then focusses on the representation of the 3 religious minorities in the media as news media is one of the few mediums that represents the popular view, plays a simultaneous role in cultivating a popular view and fanning it across the masses. As such, it is a threat for establishments particularly the state as a platform with the potential for depicting the failures of the state and in the process, sowing discontentment amongst the populace regarding the state as an institution. Hence, the state either censors the media or controls it.

Through the data provided in the report under this sub-topic, the bias against religious minorities was present in the Indian news media since its inception and the media spectacularly failed in its role as the watchdog of democracy, especially since 2014.

All mediums of mass media have been involved in producing scapegoats. Often these scapegoats are ethnic minorities and the mediums engage in ethnic blame, as provided in the report. Ethnic blame as a discourse frames behaviour of ethnic minorities as problematic and inducing conflict thereby, accentuating the negative image of minority communities. In India, preliminary observation done for the report has reflected this consensus of scapegoats is laid at the feet of religious minorities and no medium other than television news perpetuates this consensus in full force with value-laden language, disproportionate weight, and coverage, as well as stereotypes.

The research study conducted in the report analysed prime time broadcast shows of three news channels: Halla Bol of “Aaj Tak” channel, Newstrack with Rahul Kanwal of “India Today” channel and Ravish Ki Report of “NDTV” channel. As provided in the report, from January 2021 to December 2021, the three broadcasts telecasted 793 shows in which 2,574 panelists participated.

  1. Halla Bol, “Aaj Tak”

Some of the issues discussed on prime time related to religious minorities- In 2021, Muslims were incarcerated for “performing” Covid Jihad. Hindutva groups made calls for a pan-nation genocide and boycott of Muslims, leading to a spike in hate crimes targeting the religious minority. Sikhs were accused of conspiring with Pakistan. Hindutva groups alleging Christians of forcible conversion targeted the religious minority with hate crimes, including vandalism of schools and Churches. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs restricted Missionaries of Charity – the organisation founded by Mother Teresa, from receiving foreign donations on account of alleged proselytism.

Statistics-

  • In 2021, Halla Bol referred to religious minorities in 60 (19.01%) telecasts. The show referred to Muslims in 59 (18.78%) of telecasts, Sikhs in 1 (0.31%) telecast, and made no direct reference to Christians, depriving space of a religious minority comprising 2.3% of total population of India.

  • Halla Bol telecasted 60 (19.10%) shows referring to religious minorities. 57 (95%) of these were negative in nature and 3 (5%) were neutral. All references to Sikhs were negative in nature, while 56 (94.91%) of references made to Muslims were negative and the remaining 3 (5.08%) references to Muslims were neutral. The show did not refer to any religious minority in a positive manner.

  • The show broadcasted 5 (1.59%) telecasts related to conspiracy theories against religious minorities.

  • The show also broadcasted 14 telecasts targeting religious minorities. 12 (85.71%) of these telecasts targeted Muslims, and 2 (14.28%) targeted Sikhs. Targeting refers to media trials conducted in the newsrooms by anchors and Hindu panellists, which deprive the wrongfully accused to present their defence.

  • 1286 panellists appeared in 127 broadcasted telecasts of Halla Bol. Only 192 (14.93%) of the panellists belonged to religious minorities, with 147 (11.43%) representing Muslims, 45 (3.49%) representing Sikhs and 0% representing Christians.

  1. Newstrack, “India Today”

Statistics-

  • The prime-time broadcast show Newstrack of “India Today” channel, anchored by News Director Rahul Kanwal, telecasted 230 shows in the year 2021. 92 (40%) of the telecasts had panellists from religious minorities but only 1 (0.43%) telecast focused on topics related to religious minorities.

  • The show directly referred to Muslims in 35 (15.21%) of telecasts, Sikhs in 2 (0.86%) telecasts, and made no direct reference to Christians

  • In the year 2021, Newstrack telecasted 37 (16.08%) shows referring to religious minorities, of which 34 (91.89%) were negative in nature, 2 (5.40%) were neutral in nature and 1 (2.70%) was positive. All references to Sikhs were negative in nature again following the pattern observed in telecasts of Halla Bol, while 32 (91.42%) of references made to Muslims were negative, 2 (5.71%) were neutral and the remaining 1 (2.85%) reference was positive.

  • The show broadcasted 4 (1.73%) telecasts related to conspiracy theories against religious minorities, 3 (80%) of which were against the religious minority of Muslims, and 1 (20%) was against the religious minority of Sikhs.

  • The show also broadcasted 8 telecasts targeting religious minorities. 7 (87.50%) of these telecasts targeted Muslims, and the remaining 1 (12.50%) targeted Sikhs.

  1. Prime Time with Ravish, “NDTV”

  • The prime-time broadcast show Prime Time with Ravish of “NDTV”, anchored by Senior Executive Editor Ravish Kumar, telecasted 249 shows in the year 2021.

  • Only 53 (21%) of the telecasts featured panelists from religious minorities and not one telecast focused on issues pertaining to religious minorities. The show referred to Muslims in 22 (8.83%) of telecasts, Sikhs in 1 (0.40%) telecast, and made no direct reference to Christians.

  • In 2021, Prime Time with Ravish Kumar telecasted 23 (9.23%) shows referring to religious minorities: 4 (1.60%) were positive in nature and (7.63%) were neutral. The single reference to Sikhs was positive in nature while out of 22 references made to Muslims, 19 were neutral and the remaining 3 were positive.

  • 342 panelists appeared in 249 broadcasted telecasts of Ravish Ki Report. Only 59 (17%) panelists belonged to religious minorities, with 49 (14.32%) of total panelists representing Muslims, 7 (2.04%) representing Sikhs and 3 (0.87%) representing Christians.

Through the data provided in the report, the CMRI has concluded that the institution of Indian television news functions every day by at best ignoring Muslims, Sikhs and Christians and at worst, defaming the said communities. news television avoids effective coverage of religious minorities as a subject and provides only tokenism representation to religious minorities in newsrooms.

Qualitative changes in hate speech against minorities

As per the report, in the lead up to the 2019 elections, social media was seen to be used in an extremely dangerous fashion, especially WhatsApp, toxic misinformation and to incite fear amongst the population against non-Hindus.

Incidents of genocidal hate speeches made against the religious minority communities-

  • As of January 2022, over 12 open calls inciting group killings of Muslims were made in 5 Indian states in just two years. However, the number crossed 20 in just the next 3 months. And by 20th April, 2022, at least 10 more open calls to genocide by the same group of Hindu nationalists were made in just 20 days including the repetition of the infamous Haridwar Dharam Sansad at various places across India.

  • Between 17th December and 20th December 2021, at the religious congregation in Haridwar, Hindutva leaders were seen addressing the public calling for ‘real Hindus’ to take up arms and kill Muslims. As has become the norm, the Uttarakhand government was silent.

  • In 2021, the slogan “Jab Mulle Kaate jayenge, Tab Ram Ram Chillayenge” [When Muslims will be cut up, they will shout the name of Ram] came to light after the series of Mahapanchayats in the Northern state of Haryana in support of the Hindus accused in the lynching case of a Muslim gym trainer named Asif.

  • In seeking re-election earlier this year, bulldozers became an integral part of the Yogi’s campaign as of the dispossession of Muslims in India, and were also stationed at election rallies as a symbol.

  • In a wave of islamophobia during the Covid- 19 spike, the Tablighi Jamaat incident led to Muslim-owned businesses being boycotted and health workers being discriminated against. Muslims were denied healthcare on account of being ‘super-spreaders’ regardless of their involvement in the congregation. Leaders of the majority parties were even referring to the meeting as a ‘Talibani crime’ and ‘corona terrorism.’ The hashtag ‘Corona Jihad’ went viral on social media.

Repression of Christian-run Educational Institutions in India

As provided in the report, according to the World Watch List 2022, India ranks 10th, making it one of the worst countries globally to follow Christianity. In the last years, Christian educational institutions have undergone threats and attacks in the country. These attacks on Christians can be categorised as both organised and unorganised i.e., carried out by state and nonstate actors, as per the CMRI report. They are designed to target the Christian educational institutions that are widely present across the country.

The schools run by Christian groups are often portrayed by the allegations of forced religious conversions. As mentioned in the report, the allegations and propaganda of forceful religious conversions have further segregated the minorities and its effect has been noticeably seen through the new anti-conversion laws which have been passed in five states of the country, which are Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka.

Incidents of attack:

  • As mentioned in the report, according to a report jointly released by three organisations namely, the Association for protection of Civil Rights, United Against Hate, and United Christian Forum around 300 cases of violence have been reported against Christians in nine months of 2021

  • Christian schools in Vidisha and Mumbai were targeted by Hindu Nationalist organisations, claiming that the schools were involved in forced religious conversions. Similarly, Christian schools in Aligarh were threatened to not celebrate Christmas by a Hindu Nationalist organisation.

  • On 6th December, 2021, when St Joseph School was vandalised, 14 students were inside the school premises appearing for the examination.

  • In 2017, Christian schools in Aligarh were warned by Hindu Jagran Manch to not observe Christmas. Sonu Savita, an HJM leader, alleged that in these Christian schools Hindus were in minority, and celebrating Christmas is a subtle way to tell the children about Christianity.

  • In December 2021, several men wearing saffron scarves barged into Karnataka schools to stop the Christmas celebrations.25 The mob threatened the administration and accused them of 'ignoring Hindu gods' and 'introducing Christianity to Hindu students.’

  • In February 2021, the local administration of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and the Daman-and-Diu States forced children of all the schools, irrespective of their faiths, to celebrate Vasant Panchami.

Gendered Islamophobia in India: Targeted hate violence against Muslim women

As provided in the report, the conversations in the mainstream academia and media regarding Muslim women in India have been stereotypically discourteous and monolith - that of forcefully covered oppressed beings, lacking voice, agency, or freedom always under the ‘control’ supposedly stemming from the fundamentalist tendencies of the men of the Muslim community and the faith they adhere to. Gendered Islamophobia, as per community definitions, is the ways in which the state utilizes gendered forms of violence, to oppress, monitor, punish, maim and exercise control over Muslim women’s bodies. These negative social constructions also portray Muslim women as terrorists, terrorist sympathisers on one hand, and on the other as inherently oppressed. As provided in the report, Muslim women are treated as cultural representatives of Islam and Muslim communities, which is mostly the reason why the bodies of Muslim women and girls are considered sites of domination and control.

Incidents of hatred against Muslims women:

  • In May 2022, a Hindu man delivered a hate-filled speech in the theatre after watching the film ‘The Kashmir Files’18, calling upon Hindu men to marry and impregnate Muslim women so that the demographic imbalances of India are "corrected."

  • In 2021, the Union Ministry of Indian Affairs announced that Muslim Women's Rights Day will be observed across the country on 1st August to “celebrate” the enactment of the legislation which criminalises Triple Talaq. The report highlights that the legislation was passed in a hurry, while several Muslim women’s collectives and advocates of human rights stood vehemently opposed to the criminalization of divorce. The voices of the very women the act supposedly ‘saves’ were deliberately silenced.

  • The targeted attack and conspiracy of ‘love jihad’ and ‘population jihad’ is established through the strategic stigmatisation of dark sexual obsession about allegedly ultra-masculine Muslim male bodies and over-fertile Muslim female ones.

  • At a rally, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, said, “Men are sleeping under quilts; women, kids are pushed forward to protest against CAA '' (Khan, 2020). Prime Minister Narendra Modi even declared that protestors could be recognized by their clothes, “hinting at veiled Muslim women at Shaheen Bagh” (Kadiwal, 2021).

  • One of the Mahapanchayath organised at Ramlila ground, Pataudi on 4th July, 2021, 19-year-old Sharma alias Ram Bhakth Gopal, in response to Love jihad, called for the abduction of Muslim women and urged Hindu men to protect their sisters and daughters.

  • On 3rd January, 2022, a video was shared on social media, where Hindu leader Yati Narasinghanad sitting on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar, spewing objectionable and Islamophobic remarks against Muslim women.

  • ‘Bulli bai’ and its previous version ‘sulli deals’ are two similar applications on the GitHub platform, which auctioned dozens of vocal Muslim women to threaten and humiliate them. On 4th July, Sulli Deals, a web-based app, used publicly available pictures of several Muslim women activists, scholars, journalists, and other professionals without their consent; and created profiles, describing them as the ‘deal’ of the day.

  • The restriction on wearing hijab for students in pre- university campuses of the Indian State of Karnataka, which the Karnataka high court later legalized, is viewed by many as another step toward criminalising the presence of Muslims, and more particularly, Muslim women in India.

The Sikhs of India; Repression and Exclusion

As provided in the report, the Sikhs are a small minority community in India with a population of less than 2 percent. Further provided in the report is that there have been active efforts by ruling dispensations of the central Indian government to curb activism and mobilisation within the Sikh community. There was a massive increase in anti-Sikh hate and anti-Sikh propaganda during the protest by Indian farmers against the Narendra Modi government's controversial agricultural laws. Though the protest was carried out by farmers from across North India, Sikh farmers from the Punjab province played a leading role in the entire agitation. The report states that there was a clear attempt by the Indian government as well as a major section of the pro-government media to project the protests by Sikhs as "anti-national" or "treason". The protesters had to face brute force from the police when they were marching peacefully from Punjab to Delhi.

Incidents of hatred against Sikh community:

  • In June 2020, Sikligars in MP’s Khargone district claimed that they had to flee their homes and were forced to live in the forest due to being hounded by the police.23 Later that year a Sikh Granthi (preacher) belonging to the Sikligar community was publicly thrashed by the police in Madhya Pradesh's Barwani district.

  • In 2018, houses belonging to Sikligars and a Gurdwara were damaged by the police in Balsa near Parbhani in Maharashtra.

  • As of July 2020, there were 94 UAPA cases in the Punjab province under which 370 people had been kept in jail, most of them Sikhs.

  • In April 2018, Punjab Police arrested 4 youths allegedly planning to highlight Khalistan issues at cricket matches. The cyber cell tracked these youths from a Facebook page in the name of “Referendum 2020". The youth was allegedly instructed on the page to put Referendum 2020 posters to get media attention.

  • On 28th June, 2020, police arrested Mohinder Pal Singh, Gurtej Singh and Lovepreet Singh and charged them with terrorism related offences. Three phones were recovered with videos and photographs related to the Khalistani movement and their propagators, the police claimed. The police alleged that Lovepreet was very active on Social Media Platforms and made a Facebook Page named ‘KhalsaBhindrewalaji’.

  • A number of Sikh websites, social media accounts, and hashtags have also been banned by the Indian authorities. Punjab-based news website Sikh Siyasat was blocked in June 2020 within India.29 Sikh oriented news channels Akaal Channel, KTV and TV84 were blocked on YouTube.30 While Akaal Channel is live again, the ban on the YouTube homepages of TV84 and KTV continues. Sikh Siyasat’s English website also remains blocked in India.

Universities as sites of resistance: Journey of Muslims to and in Higher Education

Under this, the report analyses the factors which contribute to the steadily declining presence of Muslim communities at all levels of the education system, be it primary, secondary or postsecondary university education. Lack of economic resources, political and social marginalization are the major contributing factors.

Statistics provided in the report-

  • All India Survey of Education (AISHE), suggests that in the years 2019-20, only about 21 lakh Muslims were enrolled in Higher Education, of which 77.36% were in colleges that are not particularly renowned.

  • In institutes of national importance, such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the National Institute of Technology (NIT), and the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), Muslims constitute a staggeringly low figure of 1.92%.

  • The growth rate of Muslim enrolment in higher education was 120.09% from 2010-11 to 2014-15, to only 36.96% from 2014-15 to 2019-20, reflecting a steady decline.

  • Despite comprising 14% of India’s population, Muslims account for about 5.5% of students enrolled in higher education, according to the AISHE 2019-20.

  • India’s top law schools have consistently seen a low rate of enrolment of Muslims, with the lowest being 1.51% in 2017-27 and rising at a slow rate to 3.88% in 2018-19. It has been recorded that Muslims constitute only 2.5% of students who appear for law exams.

  • The rate of Muslim dropouts is about 23.1 % is higher than the national average of 18.96%, with different states of the country having varying differences between the two, some states ranging at extreme differences.


The full report may be read here.

 


[1] The data on hate crimes against religious minorities (Christian, Muslim, and Sikh) has been compiled by referring to the archives maintained by different non-state actors, such as DOTO, Hindutva Watch, WTS, news reports (print and digital), fact-finding reports by civil society organisations and individuals.

[2] Police violence against minorities is mostly overlooked and very less often considered as a result of the structured prejudices prevalent against the victim communities. The incidents taken into account do not include, extra-judicial killings, illegal detention, custodial torture or, custodial death.

 

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India has chosen a path of exclusion and persecution for religious minorities: CMRI report

The CMRI report provides data on hate crimes against religious minorities, and touches upon their portrayal on news media, status of educational institutions, among other aspects

attack on minoritiesImage: The Indian Express

The Council of Minority Rights in India (CMRI) published a report on the Religious Minorities in India in November 2022. Through this report, Socio-Political Status of Religious Minorities in India in the year 2021 has been documented, through collecting primary and secondary data. The report emphasized on the sudden rise in calls for genocides, economic and social boycotts, rape threats to Muslim women, rise in Hindu vigilante groups have resulted in lynching or lynchings of innocent Muslim men, vandalising Christian prayer meetings, and moral policing couples on Valentine’s Day, which displays the growing extremism in the society. the report aims to depicts how it is becoming more and more dangerous to speak freely, think freely and even possess books which may give a message different to the one the current regime is propagating. It is in this socio-political context that this report attempts to document the violence and provide perspectives to the growing intolerance.

Who are the religious minorities of India?

The Ministry of Welfare, Government of India notified five religious communities, the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Parsis), as minority communities on 23rd October 1993. The Jains were later notified on 27th January 2014, as a minority community. As per the 2011 census, the above-mentioned six religious minorities constitute 19.4% of the total population. Muslims are the largest minority in India that constitute 14.2% of the total population, whereas Christians and Sikhs constitute 2.3% and 1.7%, respectively.

Hate Crimes: Case of Religious Minorities in India-

The report refers to issue of rising hate crimes against minorities in India, and the bias that leads to it. The report has gone into the detail of how the right-wing ecosystem in India represents a weaponisation of emotions and information to manipulate India’s entire political and societal landscape. The report then goes into how spreading of fake news and misinformation, along with state complicity and state impunity, become to weapons of pushing the political propaganda. As provided in the road, fear or threat from minorities is spread and broadcasted by right-wing outfits, through targeted campaigns, political mobilisation and media (news, entertainment, and social).

Referring to jurisprudence and legislations against hate crime, the report states that India has no such legislation that addresses prejudice motivated crimes or hate crimes. The cases filed against hate crime offenders are usually under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), however, they are hardly filed, as the police officials are not cooperative because of the nexus of the impunity in the country against minority communities. The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989, which is poorly implemented across the nation, is the only hate crime legislation.

Anti-lynching laws were framed and passed in four state legislative assemblies, namely Manipur, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, keeping in view the rising cases of mob lynching in India. But these bills were not implemented.

Since there is an absence of a legal framework that specifies crimes and compartmentalises violence committed against religious minorities with a biased motive into hate crime, a path is paved for the under-reporting of crimes committed, making the numbers of hate crime incidents much less credible.

As per the data provided in the report, in the year 2021, a total of 294 incidents of hate crimes were documented against religious minorities, out of which 192 were against Muslims, 95 against Christians and 7 against the Sikh community. The Christian community was predominantly targeted on allegations of forceful conversion. The Muslim community was chiefly targeted on allegations of inter-faith relationships and cow slaughter. Hate crimes against Sikhs were not documented at all and were also not reported by news media. The perpetrators are majorly right-wing vigilantes or Hindu extremist groups.[1]

The report also provides the types of violence and crimes that the religious minorities had to face in the year 2021, which is as follows:

Type of Offence

Religious Minorities

Total

 

Muslims

Christians

Sikhs

 

Attack on Religious Place/Worship

7

30

2

51

Communal Tension/Riot

11

0

0

11

Denial Of Access to Public Space

11

1

0

12

Discrimination

4

2

1

7

Hate Speech

20

3

0

23

Harassment

14

10

1

25

Lynch/Murder

26

1

1

28

Online

3

0

0

3

Physical Assault

63

26

0

89

Police Violence

7

7

2

16[2]

Sexual Violence/Assault

4

0

0

4

Threat/Intimidation

6

14

0

20

Vandalism

4

1

0

5

Minorities on Prime Time: An inquiry into the portrayal of Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs on Television News

The report then focusses on the representation of the 3 religious minorities in the media as news media is one of the few mediums that represents the popular view, plays a simultaneous role in cultivating a popular view and fanning it across the masses. As such, it is a threat for establishments particularly the state as a platform with the potential for depicting the failures of the state and in the process, sowing discontentment amongst the populace regarding the state as an institution. Hence, the state either censors the media or controls it.

Through the data provided in the report under this sub-topic, the bias against religious minorities was present in the Indian news media since its inception and the media spectacularly failed in its role as the watchdog of democracy, especially since 2014.

All mediums of mass media have been involved in producing scapegoats. Often these scapegoats are ethnic minorities and the mediums engage in ethnic blame, as provided in the report. Ethnic blame as a discourse frames behaviour of ethnic minorities as problematic and inducing conflict thereby, accentuating the negative image of minority communities. In India, preliminary observation done for the report has reflected this consensus of scapegoats is laid at the feet of religious minorities and no medium other than television news perpetuates this consensus in full force with value-laden language, disproportionate weight, and coverage, as well as stereotypes.

The research study conducted in the report analysed prime time broadcast shows of three news channels: Halla Bol of “Aaj Tak” channel, Newstrack with Rahul Kanwal of “India Today” channel and Ravish Ki Report of “NDTV” channel. As provided in the report, from January 2021 to December 2021, the three broadcasts telecasted 793 shows in which 2,574 panelists participated.

  1. Halla Bol, “Aaj Tak”

Some of the issues discussed on prime time related to religious minorities- In 2021, Muslims were incarcerated for “performing” Covid Jihad. Hindutva groups made calls for a pan-nation genocide and boycott of Muslims, leading to a spike in hate crimes targeting the religious minority. Sikhs were accused of conspiring with Pakistan. Hindutva groups alleging Christians of forcible conversion targeted the religious minority with hate crimes, including vandalism of schools and Churches. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs restricted Missionaries of Charity – the organisation founded by Mother Teresa, from receiving foreign donations on account of alleged proselytism.

Statistics-

  • In 2021, Halla Bol referred to religious minorities in 60 (19.01%) telecasts. The show referred to Muslims in 59 (18.78%) of telecasts, Sikhs in 1 (0.31%) telecast, and made no direct reference to Christians, depriving space of a religious minority comprising 2.3% of total population of India.

  • Halla Bol telecasted 60 (19.10%) shows referring to religious minorities. 57 (95%) of these were negative in nature and 3 (5%) were neutral. All references to Sikhs were negative in nature, while 56 (94.91%) of references made to Muslims were negative and the remaining 3 (5.08%) references to Muslims were neutral. The show did not refer to any religious minority in a positive manner.

  • The show broadcasted 5 (1.59%) telecasts related to conspiracy theories against religious minorities.

  • The show also broadcasted 14 telecasts targeting religious minorities. 12 (85.71%) of these telecasts targeted Muslims, and 2 (14.28%) targeted Sikhs. Targeting refers to media trials conducted in the newsrooms by anchors and Hindu panellists, which deprive the wrongfully accused to present their defence.

  • 1286 panellists appeared in 127 broadcasted telecasts of Halla Bol. Only 192 (14.93%) of the panellists belonged to religious minorities, with 147 (11.43%) representing Muslims, 45 (3.49%) representing Sikhs and 0% representing Christians.

  1. Newstrack, “India Today”

Statistics-

  • The prime-time broadcast show Newstrack of “India Today” channel, anchored by News Director Rahul Kanwal, telecasted 230 shows in the year 2021. 92 (40%) of the telecasts had panellists from religious minorities but only 1 (0.43%) telecast focused on topics related to religious minorities.

  • The show directly referred to Muslims in 35 (15.21%) of telecasts, Sikhs in 2 (0.86%) telecasts, and made no direct reference to Christians

  • In the year 2021, Newstrack telecasted 37 (16.08%) shows referring to religious minorities, of which 34 (91.89%) were negative in nature, 2 (5.40%) were neutral in nature and 1 (2.70%) was positive. All references to Sikhs were negative in nature again following the pattern observed in telecasts of Halla Bol, while 32 (91.42%) of references made to Muslims were negative, 2 (5.71%) were neutral and the remaining 1 (2.85%) reference was positive.

  • The show broadcasted 4 (1.73%) telecasts related to conspiracy theories against religious minorities, 3 (80%) of which were against the religious minority of Muslims, and 1 (20%) was against the religious minority of Sikhs.

  • The show also broadcasted 8 telecasts targeting religious minorities. 7 (87.50%) of these telecasts targeted Muslims, and the remaining 1 (12.50%) targeted Sikhs.

  1. Prime Time with Ravish, “NDTV”

  • The prime-time broadcast show Prime Time with Ravish of “NDTV”, anchored by Senior Executive Editor Ravish Kumar, telecasted 249 shows in the year 2021.

  • Only 53 (21%) of the telecasts featured panelists from religious minorities and not one telecast focused on issues pertaining to religious minorities. The show referred to Muslims in 22 (8.83%) of telecasts, Sikhs in 1 (0.40%) telecast, and made no direct reference to Christians.

  • In 2021, Prime Time with Ravish Kumar telecasted 23 (9.23%) shows referring to religious minorities: 4 (1.60%) were positive in nature and (7.63%) were neutral. The single reference to Sikhs was positive in nature while out of 22 references made to Muslims, 19 were neutral and the remaining 3 were positive.

  • 342 panelists appeared in 249 broadcasted telecasts of Ravish Ki Report. Only 59 (17%) panelists belonged to religious minorities, with 49 (14.32%) of total panelists representing Muslims, 7 (2.04%) representing Sikhs and 3 (0.87%) representing Christians.

Through the data provided in the report, the CMRI has concluded that the institution of Indian television news functions every day by at best ignoring Muslims, Sikhs and Christians and at worst, defaming the said communities. news television avoids effective coverage of religious minorities as a subject and provides only tokenism representation to religious minorities in newsrooms.

Qualitative changes in hate speech against minorities

As per the report, in the lead up to the 2019 elections, social media was seen to be used in an extremely dangerous fashion, especially WhatsApp, toxic misinformation and to incite fear amongst the population against non-Hindus.

Incidents of genocidal hate speeches made against the religious minority communities-

  • As of January 2022, over 12 open calls inciting group killings of Muslims were made in 5 Indian states in just two years. However, the number crossed 20 in just the next 3 months. And by 20th April, 2022, at least 10 more open calls to genocide by the same group of Hindu nationalists were made in just 20 days including the repetition of the infamous Haridwar Dharam Sansad at various places across India.

  • Between 17th December and 20th December 2021, at the religious congregation in Haridwar, Hindutva leaders were seen addressing the public calling for ‘real Hindus’ to take up arms and kill Muslims. As has become the norm, the Uttarakhand government was silent.

  • In 2021, the slogan “Jab Mulle Kaate jayenge, Tab Ram Ram Chillayenge” [When Muslims will be cut up, they will shout the name of Ram] came to light after the series of Mahapanchayats in the Northern state of Haryana in support of the Hindus accused in the lynching case of a Muslim gym trainer named Asif.

  • In seeking re-election earlier this year, bulldozers became an integral part of the Yogi’s campaign as of the dispossession of Muslims in India, and were also stationed at election rallies as a symbol.

  • In a wave of islamophobia during the Covid- 19 spike, the Tablighi Jamaat incident led to Muslim-owned businesses being boycotted and health workers being discriminated against. Muslims were denied healthcare on account of being ‘super-spreaders’ regardless of their involvement in the congregation. Leaders of the majority parties were even referring to the meeting as a ‘Talibani crime’ and ‘corona terrorism.’ The hashtag ‘Corona Jihad’ went viral on social media.

Repression of Christian-run Educational Institutions in India

As provided in the report, according to the World Watch List 2022, India ranks 10th, making it one of the worst countries globally to follow Christianity. In the last years, Christian educational institutions have undergone threats and attacks in the country. These attacks on Christians can be categorised as both organised and unorganised i.e., carried out by state and nonstate actors, as per the CMRI report. They are designed to target the Christian educational institutions that are widely present across the country.

The schools run by Christian groups are often portrayed by the allegations of forced religious conversions. As mentioned in the report, the allegations and propaganda of forceful religious conversions have further segregated the minorities and its effect has been noticeably seen through the new anti-conversion laws which have been passed in five states of the country, which are Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka.

Incidents of attack:

  • As mentioned in the report, according to a report jointly released by three organisations namely, the Association for protection of Civil Rights, United Against Hate, and United Christian Forum around 300 cases of violence have been reported against Christians in nine months of 2021

  • Christian schools in Vidisha and Mumbai were targeted by Hindu Nationalist organisations, claiming that the schools were involved in forced religious conversions. Similarly, Christian schools in Aligarh were threatened to not celebrate Christmas by a Hindu Nationalist organisation.

  • On 6th December, 2021, when St Joseph School was vandalised, 14 students were inside the school premises appearing for the examination.

  • In 2017, Christian schools in Aligarh were warned by Hindu Jagran Manch to not observe Christmas. Sonu Savita, an HJM leader, alleged that in these Christian schools Hindus were in minority, and celebrating Christmas is a subtle way to tell the children about Christianity.

  • In December 2021, several men wearing saffron scarves barged into Karnataka schools to stop the Christmas celebrations.25 The mob threatened the administration and accused them of 'ignoring Hindu gods' and 'introducing Christianity to Hindu students.’

  • In February 2021, the local administration of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and the Daman-and-Diu States forced children of all the schools, irrespective of their faiths, to celebrate Vasant Panchami.

Gendered Islamophobia in India: Targeted hate violence against Muslim women

As provided in the report, the conversations in the mainstream academia and media regarding Muslim women in India have been stereotypically discourteous and monolith - that of forcefully covered oppressed beings, lacking voice, agency, or freedom always under the ‘control’ supposedly stemming from the fundamentalist tendencies of the men of the Muslim community and the faith they adhere to. Gendered Islamophobia, as per community definitions, is the ways in which the state utilizes gendered forms of violence, to oppress, monitor, punish, maim and exercise control over Muslim women’s bodies. These negative social constructions also portray Muslim women as terrorists, terrorist sympathisers on one hand, and on the other as inherently oppressed. As provided in the report, Muslim women are treated as cultural representatives of Islam and Muslim communities, which is mostly the reason why the bodies of Muslim women and girls are considered sites of domination and control.

Incidents of hatred against Muslims women:

  • In May 2022, a Hindu man delivered a hate-filled speech in the theatre after watching the film ‘The Kashmir Files’18, calling upon Hindu men to marry and impregnate Muslim women so that the demographic imbalances of India are "corrected."

  • In 2021, the Union Ministry of Indian Affairs announced that Muslim Women's Rights Day will be observed across the country on 1st August to “celebrate” the enactment of the legislation which criminalises Triple Talaq. The report highlights that the legislation was passed in a hurry, while several Muslim women’s collectives and advocates of human rights stood vehemently opposed to the criminalization of divorce. The voices of the very women the act supposedly ‘saves’ were deliberately silenced.

  • The targeted attack and conspiracy of ‘love jihad’ and ‘population jihad’ is established through the strategic stigmatisation of dark sexual obsession about allegedly ultra-masculine Muslim male bodies and over-fertile Muslim female ones.

  • At a rally, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, said, “Men are sleeping under quilts; women, kids are pushed forward to protest against CAA '' (Khan, 2020). Prime Minister Narendra Modi even declared that protestors could be recognized by their clothes, “hinting at veiled Muslim women at Shaheen Bagh” (Kadiwal, 2021).

  • One of the Mahapanchayath organised at Ramlila ground, Pataudi on 4th July, 2021, 19-year-old Sharma alias Ram Bhakth Gopal, in response to Love jihad, called for the abduction of Muslim women and urged Hindu men to protect their sisters and daughters.

  • On 3rd January, 2022, a video was shared on social media, where Hindu leader Yati Narasinghanad sitting on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar, spewing objectionable and Islamophobic remarks against Muslim women.

  • ‘Bulli bai’ and its previous version ‘sulli deals’ are two similar applications on the GitHub platform, which auctioned dozens of vocal Muslim women to threaten and humiliate them. On 4th July, Sulli Deals, a web-based app, used publicly available pictures of several Muslim women activists, scholars, journalists, and other professionals without their consent; and created profiles, describing them as the ‘deal’ of the day.

  • The restriction on wearing hijab for students in pre- university campuses of the Indian State of Karnataka, which the Karnataka high court later legalized, is viewed by many as another step toward criminalising the presence of Muslims, and more particularly, Muslim women in India.

The Sikhs of India; Repression and Exclusion

As provided in the report, the Sikhs are a small minority community in India with a population of less than 2 percent. Further provided in the report is that there have been active efforts by ruling dispensations of the central Indian government to curb activism and mobilisation within the Sikh community. There was a massive increase in anti-Sikh hate and anti-Sikh propaganda during the protest by Indian farmers against the Narendra Modi government's controversial agricultural laws. Though the protest was carried out by farmers from across North India, Sikh farmers from the Punjab province played a leading role in the entire agitation. The report states that there was a clear attempt by the Indian government as well as a major section of the pro-government media to project the protests by Sikhs as "anti-national" or "treason". The protesters had to face brute force from the police when they were marching peacefully from Punjab to Delhi.

Incidents of hatred against Sikh community:

  • In June 2020, Sikligars in MP’s Khargone district claimed that they had to flee their homes and were forced to live in the forest due to being hounded by the police.23 Later that year a Sikh Granthi (preacher) belonging to the Sikligar community was publicly thrashed by the police in Madhya Pradesh's Barwani district.

  • In 2018, houses belonging to Sikligars and a Gurdwara were damaged by the police in Balsa near Parbhani in Maharashtra.

  • As of July 2020, there were 94 UAPA cases in the Punjab province under which 370 people had been kept in jail, most of them Sikhs.

  • In April 2018, Punjab Police arrested 4 youths allegedly planning to highlight Khalistan issues at cricket matches. The cyber cell tracked these youths from a Facebook page in the name of “Referendum 2020". The youth was allegedly instructed on the page to put Referendum 2020 posters to get media attention.

  • On 28th June, 2020, police arrested Mohinder Pal Singh, Gurtej Singh and Lovepreet Singh and charged them with terrorism related offences. Three phones were recovered with videos and photographs related to the Khalistani movement and their propagators, the police claimed. The police alleged that Lovepreet was very active on Social Media Platforms and made a Facebook Page named ‘KhalsaBhindrewalaji’.

  • A number of Sikh websites, social media accounts, and hashtags have also been banned by the Indian authorities. Punjab-based news website Sikh Siyasat was blocked in June 2020 within India.29 Sikh oriented news channels Akaal Channel, KTV and TV84 were blocked on YouTube.30 While Akaal Channel is live again, the ban on the YouTube homepages of TV84 and KTV continues. Sikh Siyasat’s English website also remains blocked in India.

Universities as sites of resistance: Journey of Muslims to and in Higher Education

Under this, the report analyses the factors which contribute to the steadily declining presence of Muslim communities at all levels of the education system, be it primary, secondary or postsecondary university education. Lack of economic resources, political and social marginalization are the major contributing factors.

Statistics provided in the report-

  • All India Survey of Education (AISHE), suggests that in the years 2019-20, only about 21 lakh Muslims were enrolled in Higher Education, of which 77.36% were in colleges that are not particularly renowned.

  • In institutes of national importance, such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the National Institute of Technology (NIT), and the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), Muslims constitute a staggeringly low figure of 1.92%.

  • The growth rate of Muslim enrolment in higher education was 120.09% from 2010-11 to 2014-15, to only 36.96% from 2014-15 to 2019-20, reflecting a steady decline.

  • Despite comprising 14% of India’s population, Muslims account for about 5.5% of students enrolled in higher education, according to the AISHE 2019-20.

  • India’s top law schools have consistently seen a low rate of enrolment of Muslims, with the lowest being 1.51% in 2017-27 and rising at a slow rate to 3.88% in 2018-19. It has been recorded that Muslims constitute only 2.5% of students who appear for law exams.

  • The rate of Muslim dropouts is about 23.1 % is higher than the national average of 18.96%, with different states of the country having varying differences between the two, some states ranging at extreme differences.


The full report may be read here.

 


[1] The data on hate crimes against religious minorities (Christian, Muslim, and Sikh) has been compiled by referring to the archives maintained by different non-state actors, such as DOTO, Hindutva Watch, WTS, news reports (print and digital), fact-finding reports by civil society organisations and individuals.

[2] Police violence against minorities is mostly overlooked and very less often considered as a result of the structured prejudices prevalent against the victim communities. The incidents taken into account do not include, extra-judicial killings, illegal detention, custodial torture or, custodial death.

 

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