Combating Human Rights Violations in India and Hindutva Extremism in Canada

Violence and polarization are intrinsically tied to the rise of extremist ideological groups

By: /
28 August, 2023
In Ottawa, protestors recently gathered to raise awareness of escalating human rights violations in India and the rising tide of Hindutva extremism in Canada. Photo: South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC) In Ottawa, protestors recently gathered to raise awareness of escalating human rights violations in India and the rising tide of Hindutva extremism in Canada. Photo: South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC)
Irum Khan
By: Irum Khan
Indian journalist

On Sunday, August 20, a poignant assembly of over a hundred protestors hailing from multiple cities, including Montreal, the Greater Toronto Area, and Ottawa, converged in the capital city. Their unified message resonated through the air, urging the Canadian government to address escalating human rights violations in India and stop the rising tide of Hindutva extremism within Canada. The driving force behind this rally was the South Asian Diaspora Action Collective, whose Facebook post issued a resounding call to Canadian civil society “to voice their opposition to Hindutva hate groups in Canada and support democracy, justice, and equality in India and Canada.”

However, the silence from the Canadian government regarding the ongoing mass rapes and human rights abuses in Manipur, a province in India, has left many deeply troubled. In Manipur, a disturbing phenomenon has emerged where women’s bodies are used as weapons in a brutal civil conflict between the Meitei tribe, predominantly Hindu, and the Kuki tribe, a Christian minority. This tragic conflict has claimed around 180 lives, with women facing unspeakable horrors in the process. 

A grave incident in May 2023 serves as a shocking reminder of the scale of atrocities taking place. Two women were publicly stripped and subjected to unspeakable violence by a mob in Manipur. As the men callously assaulted them, they captured the brutality on camera. The victims’ pleas for mercy went unanswered, and their dignity was brutally stripped away. This heart-wrenching incident, along with many others, underscores the urgent need for international attention and intervention.

In an interview with Open Canada, Lien Gangte, president of the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), revealed that prior to the viral video, various organizations, including NAMTA, had documented several cases of sexual violence against women from Manipur. They sent a letter to India’s National Women’s Commission detailing these horrifying acts and urging immediate action. Manipur has been engulfed in turmoil for over 120 days, with mob justice reaching unprecedented levels under the current Modi government.

This wave of violence and polarization is intrinsically tied to the rise of extremist ideological groups, particularly those associated with Hindutva, an ultranationalist ideology propagated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India. RSS is also the parent wing of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India. Disturbingly, these divisive ideologies, as Canada’s CTV National News recently reported, are also finding a foothold in Canada. This emergence has alarmed not only concerned citizens but also notable Canadian civil society organizations. Joint letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from groups such as the South Asian Diaspora Action Collective (SADAC) and Justice for All Canada underline the urgency of addressing the rise of extremist groups and safeguarding democratic values in both India and Canada. The letter calls for action including identifying and investigating organizations affiliated with extremist ideologies and ensuring that any promoting hate, discrimination, or violence are promptly banned. Moreover, investigations into the interference of such groups in Canadian politics and institutions are crucial to preserving the democratic values that Canada holds dear.

The recent history of the BJP in India is rife with examples of a morally dubious stance towards women’s rights.  In particular, the case of Bilkis Bano a Muslim woman and a survivor of gang rape and violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots, and the horrifying 2018 Kathua rape case illustrate the party’s seeming insensitivity towards such crimes. In the former case, some BJP ministers shared the stage early this year with one of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, who was prematurely released from prison last year. 

The protection being offered to Brij Bhushan Sigh, a BJP Member of Parliament, who has 15 cases of sexual assaults (including a minor) against him filed by India’s leading athletes including Olympic gold medalists, is also worrisome. There are other cases that BJP is grappling with. Dhruv Rai, son of BJP’s Unnao mandal president, is accused in a gang rape case. Ankita Bhandari’s murder implicated Pulkit Arya, son of former BJP leader Vinod Arya. Gujarat’s rural development minister Arjunsinh Chauhan, a BJP MLA, also faced rape and confinement allegations last year. 

In conclusion, the recent protest in Ottawa serves as a reminder that human rights violations and extremist ideologies always demand immediate attention and should never be accepted in India or anywhere else for that matter. However, the Canadian government’s lack of substantial response to much of what is happening in India appears to be a case of not wanting to rock the boat with New Delhi. 

Nevertheless, the deeply concerning situation in Manipur, and the infiltration of extremist groups into Canadian society highlights the need for proactive measures to protect democracy, justice, and equality. It is only through international cooperation and decisive action that these issues can be effectively addressed and prevented from causing further harm to vulnerable populations.

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