NEW DELHI: Indian authorities have accused a Hindu monk of inciting religious violence after he called for genocide of India’s Muslims at a meeting of right-wing supporters, police said on Monday.
Senior police officer Swatantra Kumar said that yeti Narasimhanand Giri, a vocal supporter of right-wing nationalists, was arrested early on Saturday on the allegation that he had made derogatory remarks against women. He appeared in a court in Haridwar city the next day, where he was sent to 14-day custody for hate speech against Muslims and calling for violence against them.
Kumar said the monk Giri, whom he repeatedly described as a criminal, was formally charged on Monday with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion. The charge could carry up to five years in prison.
In December, Giri and other religious leaders called on Hindus to arm themselves Genocide against Muslims According to a police complaint, during a meeting in Haridwar, the northern holy city of Uttarakhand. He is the second person to be arrested in the case after the intervention of the Supreme Court of India last week.
The state of Uttarakhand is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The political party’s rise to power in 2014, and a landslide in 2019 have led to a surge in attacks against Muslims and other minorities. About 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people are Muslims.
The three-day conference that Monk Giri helped organize was called the Dharma Sansad, or Religious Parliament, and was followed by years of anti-Muslim hate speech. The closed-door meetings saw some of the clearest calls for violence so far.
Videos from the conference showed several Hindu monks, some of whom have close links with Modi’s ruling party, saying that Hindus should kill Muslims.
Hindu nationalist leader Pooja Shakun Pandey, referring to the country’s Muslim population, said, “If 100 of us are ready to kill 20 lakhs, we will win and make India a Hindu nation.” His call for such genocide was met with applause from the audience.
Police is interrogating Pandey for insulting religious beliefs. During the congregation, Hindu monks and other supporters including Giri called for the killing of those who were considered enemies of Hinduism.
The call for violence was met with public outcry and sharp criticism from former military chiefs, retired judges and rights activists. With many questioning the Modi government’s silence, warnings of hate speech against Muslims will only increase in several Indian states, including Uttarakhand, where elections are due in February.
Last week, students and faculty of the Indian Institute of Management, one of India’s most prestigious business schools, submitted a letter to Modi, in which they wrote that his silence promotes hatred and threatens the unity and integrity of the country. .
In recent years, the BJP has faced sharp criticism for its escalating attacks against Muslims.
Opposition leaders and rights groups have accused it of encouraging violence against Muslims and other minorities by radical Hindu nationalists. The party denies the allegations.
Published in Dawn, January 18, 2022