Johnson’s silence on rights violations in India a grave mistake

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In a post-Brexit world, Britain’s foreign relations must not be based solely on trade but also on an ethics-driven human rights track record. This is what British officials should have kept in mind as Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited India. It’s quite a fair expectation considering the alarming rise of Islamophobia in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The mounting evidence of daily hate and mob lynching meted out against Muslims in India is cause for global consternation. American professor Gregory Stanton, who foreshadowed the early signs of genocide in Rwanda, has now declared that “there are early signs and processes of genocide” in the illegally Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Amid the rising specter of Muslim genocide in Modi’s India, Johnson was expected to have more on his agenda than trade relations.

Muslims under attack

Currently, Muslims being beaten, threatened with rape and lynched by vigilantes has become the gruesome norm in India. In 2019, as reported by the BBC, a fact-checker website monitoring “hate crimes” in India reported that more than 90% of victims over the past decade were Muslims. The Indian police routinely round up and beat innocent Muslims, authorities bulldoze Muslim-owned homes and the armed Hindutva nationalists rally outside mosques. Amit Shah, the minister of home affairs in India, said “if Muslims carry out attacks, then they should not expect justice.” What kind of “attacks” he meant, however, is still unknown.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also warned that India’s discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) grants citizenship on the basis of religion. The law specifically fast-tracks asylum claims of non-Muslim irregular immigrants from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and excludes Muslims.

The lack of ethics is clear in the innumerable cases of mobs chanting for the open rape of Muslim women. There are lots of videos circulating on social media platforms showing the Hindutva toxic nationalists’ rallies cheering outside a mosque in the presence of countless police officers, while exhorting for the rape of Muslim women. For example, in the state of Karnataka in southwestern India, the court also upheld a state government order that banned headscarves in classrooms. Muslim women and girls in India are arbitrarily having to choose between their faith and education.

Violations in Kashmir

Moreover, the world has not forgotten the alarming human rights atrocities in Indian-administered Kashmir. These include the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, international black-outs, mass unmarked graves, pellet guns that have blinded local Kashmiris and more. The brave citizens of Kashmir deserve to have their voices heard. We have a historic and moral duty to Kashmir.

A deaf to atrocity

Ironically, Johnson attended the inauguration of a factory of the JCB, the British tractor company, in the state of Gujarat on the western coast of India, while Indian municipal authorities were using JCB bulldozers to raze shops of Muslims in the capital Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area.

Britons must urge the British prime minister to act more cautiously while trying to improve the state’s trade ties with a country where systematic anti-Islam, racist and xenophobic policies are officially trending. Johnson’s silence, while innocent people are persecuted in India and the occupied Kashmir, is a grave mistake in terms of the values he and his country represents. Instead of being a bystander, the U.K. government must speak up for human rights and stand with the oppressed and marginalized people.


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