Hindu extremists in India escalate rhetoric with calls to kill Muslims

Hindu extremists in India escalate rhetoric with calls to kill Muslims

India’s Supreme Court says it will investigate after complaints that Hindu nationalist leaders called on followers to take up arms against the country’s Muslim minority.

The notice of investigation was issued last week to the northern state of Uttarakhand, where a Hindu nationalist conference in the city of Haridwar was attended by hundreds of right-wing activists.

“We must prepare to either kill or be killed,” one of the speakers, Swami Prabodhananda Giri, said at the three-day conference, which was held Dec. 17-19.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising in Hindu-majority India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist. But recent calls to violence are shocking in their extremity, experts say, going beyond hate speech to advocate ethnic cleansing.

A petition filed to the court said the speeches in Haridwar and at a similar event in the Delhi territory, which includes the nation’s capital, “amount to an open call for murder of an entire community.”

The speeches “pose a grave threat not just to the unity and integrity of our country but also endanger the lives of millions of Muslim citizens,” it said, adding that organizers had announced further events.

No arrests have been made in either Haridwar or Delhi, and the Modi government has not commented. The official silence, critics say, could be interpreted by Hindu nationalists as a tacit endorsement.

“To give speeches against us and to say you want to drive out an entire population based on their religion, I don’t understand how they can ignore this,” said Maulana Mahmood Madani, president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, which describes itself as India’s largest Muslim organization.

Since Modi consolidated power with his re-election in 2014, Muslims in India — who make up about 14 percent of the population, have faced increased violence, discrimination and government persecution. Attacks from Hindu nationalists have ranged from property destruction and the disruption of religious services to deadly lynch mobs.

People with ties to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party were at both events. The Delhi event was organized Dec. 19 by Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing youth group founded by Yogi Adityanath, a BJP member and close Modi ally who is the chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh. In Haridwar, attendees included Ashwini Upadhyay, a former Delhi BJP spokesperson and current party member.

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