Genocide and riots: Not the same thing

Rohit Dhankar

There is a campaign by some organizations including Hindus for Human Rights and Indian American Muslim Council very objectionably titled “India-on the-Brink” “Preventing Genocide”. It seems to me they are actually instigating riots, through not genocide. In response to their defamatory campaign I tweeted “Do these people realise that in India the only victim of genocide are Hindus. Most recent Kashmiri Hindus.”

A very socially conscious and genuinely secular (not a pseudo one) friend of mine asked “when you say ” Most recent Kashmiri Hindus. ” what is the time period you refer to?”

Me: “Particularly from early 20th century.”

My Friend: “The genocide in 2002 in Gujarat and 2020 in Delhi, are they not more recent? And with the complicit support of the police/govt?”

The following few paragraphs are a response to his last question.

According to UN Genocide Convention “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (emphasis added) (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences on the authority of OHCHR [1948] 1951. Second Edition, 2008. Volume 3, page 297)

I would like to draw your attention to “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part”. A riot is “a public act of violence by an unruly mob”. One needs to note that a riot is not necessarily with the intent to destroy a group as a whole or in part. It does not have the coordinating authority that direct the violence to achieve the intended end. It can be to ‘teach a lesson’ or expression of anger, or retaliation out of fear. None of it makes it a genocide unless the coordinated intent is there. It become a genocide when such a coordinating intent appears and violence is directed to fulfill this aims. Genocide also communicates that the act of attack is one sided, that the other side did not participate and did not start/trigger it. That it was planned. When we call a Hindu-Muslim riot a ‘genocide of Muslims’ we are communicating that it was one sided, started by Hindus, there was neither provocation/starting nor full blown participation from Muslims. That is Hindus and Hindus alone have been the ghastly perpetrators of violence in this.

The 2002 Gujarat riots were triggered by burning alive 59 Hindu karsevaks returning from Ayodhya. They included 27 women and 10 children. The death toll in the riots was 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. It was a two way affair started by Muslims. It was not genocide as per the definition. It was horrible, heinous, should not have happened, there were perhaps excesses from Hindu mobs once it started. All that should be condemned. But it was no genocide, and it was started by Muslims.

Regarding the Delhi riots debate is still on who stared it and how it progressed. I think the first causality was a Hindu police constable. Again it was a riot. Bad, should not have happened. In this horrible riot 53 people died, 36 Muslims, 15 Hindus and 2 are said to be unidentified. Many report say that initially for a day the deaths were equal from both communities, then the situation changed. This may show retaliation by the Majority community, the Hindus. It was no genocide.

I do not like using words like genocide, pogrom, terror, hate, etc. lightly. Undue use of them may lend anger and rabble rousing ability to one’s speech but it also normalizes these words. And that increases the likelihood of their enactment. That is too heavy a price bargaining to malign some one.

As said above currently some organizations are continuously maligning India and Hindus through an ongoing campaign mischievously titled “India on the brink” as if a genocide is about to happen here. Reputed supposed to be intellectuals and activist are speaking in it and paddling lies and false theories. It of course will increase their visibility and reputation in certain circles but will harm India and Hindus by harming the truth. And to me India includes all citizens, whatever their religion, so it will harm all. My tweet was against this campaign.

These worthies do not realize that the level of tension is very high in the country presently. There are incidents of Hindus killing Muslims and Muslims killing Hindus. Each Muslim death justifiably generates a storm of articles condemning the act, India, Hindus and the government. But Hindu deaths generate a deafening silence. And that makes the crime hundred times more painful for the Hindu community. The so-called intellectuals do not realize that this condoning of barbarity of one community and heavy attack on the other angers people more than the act itself.


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