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Opinion – India’s External Affairs Manager is discriminating against religious minorities

As India’s External Affairs Minister taunts to ‘show him discrimination’ when questioned on minorities’ status, the ground zero reality on the subject is haunting. 

At an event at Hudson Institute, S. Jaishankar, the External Affairs Minister of India, when questioned about the diminishing rights of minorities in India under the policies and agendas of the incumbent government, cleverly dodges the real question. 

He did so by answering about how key markers for good governance in a nation are resources and social amenities being available for every citizen. He followed with the bold statement: ‘I defy you to show me discrimination’.  

It’s the ruling party’s default tactic to showcase facts and figures about the distribution of basic social amenities as a façade to divert from the harsh reality religious minorities face in India. Currently, one could argue such discrimination has never been more stark and violent. 

As the cabinet minister parrots the words of the BJP chain of command, Jaishankar deliberately ignores the various studies, research, and statements by global entities which paint a perilous picture. 

The haunting reality that has been broadcasted, shared widely, and even publicised on public forums for the last seven years, meanwhile, shows that religious discrimination is rife.

What really is the status of Indian religious minorities? 

During the September 21st night session of parliament, the ruling party’s Ramesh Bidhuri used Islamophobic slurs against muslium parliament colleague Dabusg Ali – of the Badujan Samaj Party – during discussions on India’s mission to the moon. 

Bidhuri’s words were televised as part of the Lok Sabha proceedings. ‘Yeh ugrawaaadi, yeh aatankwaadi hai, ugrawaadi hai, yeh aantankwaadi hai,’ (he is a militant, he is a terrorist, he is a militant, he is a terrorist) Bidhuri shouted. 

He also refers to Ali as a ‘Mullah aatankwadi, bharwa and katwa,’ (Muslim terrorist, pimp and circumcised) before demanding, ‘Baahar phenko iss mulle ko (throw this mullah out).’ 

Two former ministers in Modi’s cabinet, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Harshvardhan can be seen laughing behind Bidhuri. Kodikunnal Suresh, who was in the chair, later revealed that he told officials to strike Bidhuri’s tirade from the records. 

Since the outburst, Bidhuri has not reprimanded by his party, and on the contrary was promoted to a crucial position of holding charge of Tonk in Rajasthan. His caste as a Gujjar is viewed as potentially a very significant boon to swaying election outcomes. 

This is certainly not the first time that BJP, MLAs, or MPs have either directly or indirectly perpetuated ideas that spread the seeds of contempt and discrimination throughout India’s society. 

A constantly rising number of incidents include Gyandev Ahuja glorifying the lynching of minorities, and Baldev Aulakh threatening that failure to back BJP would see bulldozers run over the premises of anti CAA protestors, following ransacking incidents throughout Uttar Pradesh in 2020. 

The government machine backs discrimination not just through vocal sentiments, but also through course of tangible action in an official capacity. 

This was evident in August 2023, when the Government of Haryana (ruled by BJP) demolished homes of suspected rioters – conveniently, all Muslims – in various parts of Nuh district. 

Elsewhere, the Government of Manipur (ruled by BJP) extended the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act on September 27 to curb the ethnic strife between the Meitei (the Hindu majority community) and Kuki Zo (the Christian majority community).  

To date, 175 people have been killed by official figures, most killed in the Imphal valley and 254 churches have been destroyed.  

The law that allows the army to intervene in civil unrest has oddly been applied to the Naga-dominant districts, where there is no unrest, but not to the Meitei-dominant Imphal valley where the situation is crying out for support. It’s glaring. 

Frankly, Jaishankar’s comments sound very empty when compared with the haunting reality on the ground. All evidence points towards a singular truth that discrimination of religious grounds has been rampant in India.