Hindu-nationalism and minorities in India
The Indian government is increasingly promoting and enforcing policies that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities based on an ideological vision of a Hindu state.
Themes: Shrinking civic space, anti-conversion laws, social hostilities, minority rights
The Indian government is increasingly promoting and enforcing policies that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities based on an ideological vision of a Hindu state. Both national and state levels of government are implementing existing and new laws hostile to minorities.
Laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Sedition Law are being used to harass, detain and prosecute government critics – not least religious minorities and those reporting on and advocating for them – creating a climate of intimidation and fear. Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and long-time human rights defender of Adivasis, Dalits, and other marginalized communities, was arrested on dubious UAPA charges in October 2020 and never tried. He died in custody in July 2021 despite repeated concerns raised about his health.
In 2020, the government arrested, filed complaints against, and launched criminal investigations into journalists and human rights advocates documenting religious persecution and violence, including Khurram Parvez, a prominent Muslim human rights advocate who has reported on abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. The government also broadly targeted individuals documenting or sharing information about violence against Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities. For example, UAPA complaints were filed against individuals for tweeting about attacks on mosques in Tripura.
The government has severely limited international funding under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) which bans funding for activities “detrimental to the national interest.” Thousands of NGOs have been forced to close, including those that document violations of freedom of religion or belief and humanitarian organisations that help marginalized religious communities.
Laws in around one-third of India’s states limit or prohibit conversion, except conversion to Hinduism which is regarded as ‘re-conversion’ – a return to the ‘normal’ state of every Indian. National, state and local government officials have demonised conversion. In October 2021, Karnataka’s government ordered a survey of churches and priests in the state and authorized police to conduct a door-to-door inspection to find Hindus who have converted to Christianity. In June 2021, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, warned that he would deploy a team of over 500 officials to counter those (including, by his account, children) who were carrying out conversion activities and invoke the National Security Act, which allows for the detention of anyone acting in any manner that threatens the security of state. State hostility to conversion has created a culture of impunity, with mobs and vigilante groups threatening and committing violence particularly against Muslims and Christians accused of conversion activities.
Increasingly anti-conversion laws also target or criminalise interfaith marriages, typically requiring couples to give advance ‘public notice’ of their marriage, which risks violent reprisals. Authorities also assisted nonstate actors attempting to prevent interfaith marriages by approaching couples, converts, their families, and their religious communities.