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World News \ Asia

Thousands across India rally against religious intolerance ‎

Rallies titled, "Not in My Name", were held across India protesting against growing violence against Muslims. - EPA

Rallies titled, "Not in My Name", were held across India protesting against growing violence against Muslims. - EPA

30/06/2017 15:46

Thousands of people, including Christian groups, rallied across India on June 28 to protest against mounting religious intolerance and express solidarity with the victims of hate crimes. Secular groups across India organized the protest titled "Not in My Name" to bring together thousands of Indians, including Hindus, who are against violence conducted in the name of Hinduism and patriotism. 

"A small group in India believe that every Indian should follow a particular culture and lifestyle dictated by them" which they project as Indian culture, Michael Williams, president of the United Christian Forum, told UCANEWS.  "It cannot exist. Not in my name and not in my constitution. Do not fight this war in the name of India and Indians. You are not protecting the constitution of India by killing innocents," he said explaining the message of the protest.

Holding placards and the national flag, students, artists, politicians and religious leaders gathered in New Delhi to take part in a silent protest. Facing the protesters was a billboard — called the Lynch Map of India — illustrating where incidents of mob lynching happened in the country since 2015. 

The protests took place days after a group of Hindu men attacked 17-year-old Junaid Khan and his three brothers in an apparent row over seats, as they returned home to Khandawli village in Ballabgarh after shopping for Eid in new Delhi.  One brother said the attackers accused them of carrying beef, a meat popular among many Indian Muslims but shunned by most of the country's Hindus, who revere cows as sacred.  After stabbing Junaid to death on-board they threw the three others off the train some 20 kilometers from the national capital. 

Police said on Thursday they arrested four men and identified the chief suspect in the killing, who had yet to be arrested.  Media reports said two of the men arrested were local government employees.

"The incidents of hateful lynching exceed intolerance. What happened is really, very disturbing," Rabbi Shergill, a popular Indian singer told UCANEWS at Wednesday’s protest site in New Delhi.  Shergill said all Indians should "challenge and stand against these atrocities."  More protests are scheduled to be held in other parts ‎of the country in the coming days.‎

Since 2015, many people across the country have fallen victim to incidents of mob lynching related to religious intolerance, that commonly results over petty issues.  Recently, there has been a surge in cases of public lynching by self-styled ‘gau rakshaks’ or ‘cow protectors’ in different parts of the country over beef eating and cow smuggling or slaughtering, with Muslims and Dalits among the victims. The slaughter of cows and the possession or consumption of beef is banned in most Indian states, with some imposing life sentences for breaking the law.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, under whose right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, incidents of intolerance have been surging, broke his silence for the first time this year on Thursday over the lynchings.  “Killing people in the name of ‘gau bhakti’ [cow devotion] is not acceptable,” Modi said a day after the nationwide “Not in My Name” protests.  “This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve. It is not the message that Vinobha Bhave’s life would give us,” he said in a public address marking the centenary of  Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati ashram in Gujarat. Last year, Modi criticized the vigilantes and urged a crackdown against groups using religion as a cover for committing crimes, but such incidents have continued. 

Hours before Modi appealed against such killing, a Muslim, Asgar Ali was beaten to death at Ramgarh, 60 kms from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, where the government is headed by BJP chief minister, Raghubar Das.  

Leading rights watchdog Amnesty International has also called on the Indian government to ensure there is no impunity for those responsible for public lynching and other hate crimes against Muslims. “The pattern of hate crimes committed against Muslims with seeming impunity - many of them in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power - is deeply worrying,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India. “Unfortunately both the Prime Minister and various Chief Ministers have done little to show that they disapprove of this violence,” he said on Wednesday.  The group noted that since April 2017, at least ten Muslim men have been lynched or killed in public in suspected hate crimes, amid a rising tide of Islamophobia in the country.  (Source: UCAN/…)

30/06/2017 15:46