Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ruled over India using the same kind of right-wing populist gimmicks and slogans that have become commonly associated with US President Donald Trump. He promises to make the country “Great Again” by restoring India’s prestige across the world and vanquishing its undesirable minorities, particularly Muslims.
Things haven’t turned out exactly how Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had hoped, however. With economic growth at its slowest pace in decades, the country’s international reputation is in tatters after the world bore witness to what can only be described as an anti-Muslim pogrom in the streets of New Delhi a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, radicalized Hindu nationalists lynched and murdered 47 Muslims and police either passively stood by or participated in the violence.
When Indian officials aren’t referring to Muslims as “traitors,” “terrorists,” or “pests,” they are promising to incite the kind of mass deportation not seen since the 1947 partition and passing of anti-Muslim apartheid laws.
These attacks didn’t occur in isolation. They happened in the broader context of a government-led effort to transform India into a Hindu Rashtra (nation) by deporting Muslims or using more nefarious means to either forcibly evict or ethnically cleanse them. When officials aren’t referring to Muslims as “traitors,” “terrorists,” or “pests,” they are promising to incite the kind of mass deportation not seen since the 1947 partition and passing of anti-Muslim apartheid laws, otherwise known separately as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Despite the safety and wellbeing of 200 million Muslims being under imminent threat, and despite the Indian military’s human rights abuses against 8 million Muslims in Kashmir, and the government’s recent abrogation of Article 370—which has stripped the territory of its semi-autonomous status, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has sat idly on the sidelines, mostly dismissing these injustices as an “internal issue” for India.
Worse, Modi, who was once banned from visiting the United States for his complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which left more than 2,000 Muslims dead, became the first Indian leader to be feted as a “guest of honor” at an OIC meeting in 2019.
“The friendly country of India has been named as the guest of honor in view of its great global political stature as well as its time-honored and deeply rooted cultural and historical legacy, and its important Islamic component,” the OIC communiqué read.
The fact that India is the Kingdom’s second-biggest petroleum customer goes a long way in explaining the OIC’s muted response towards the victimization of Muslims in both India and Kashmir.
While the OIC boasts of being “the collective voice for the Muslim world,” its rhetoric and actions tend to fall in line with Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy objectives. The fact that India is the Kingdom’s second-biggest petroleum customer goes a long way in explaining the OIC’s muted response towards the victimization of Muslims in both India and Kashmir.
“As a growing market for Arab oil and gas, as a source of highly trained and competent personnel, and as a friendly country with a powerful military and a strong interest in geopolitical stability, India is a valuable neighbor in a dangerous part of the world,” observes the Wall Street Journal.
An official statement made by the OIC last week, however, suggests the largest organization of the Muslim world has finally had enough of Modi’s BJP radical Hindu nationalist agenda.
“The OIC condemns the recent and alarming violence against Muslims in India, resulting in the death and injury of innocent people, and the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties,” reads the organization’s statement. The declaration also called on the Modi-led BJP government to “bring the instigators and perpetrators of anti-Muslim violence to justice and to ensure the safety and security of all its Muslim citizens and the protection of Islamic holy places across the country.”
India’s mistreatment of Muslims is no longer an “internal issue” in the eyes of OIC member states, but rather an international issue that should be taken up with the United Nations.
In other words, India’s mistreatment of Muslims is no longer an “internal issue” in the eyes of OIC member states, but rather an international issue that should be taken up with the United Nations, which effectively marks a significant change in the relationship between Riyadh and New Delhi, at least on paper.
Predictably, New Delhi has slammed the OIC’s statement, accusing it of being “factually incorrect, selective and misleading,” and urging it to desist in making further “irresponsible” comments. The Modi government’s desperate attempt to swat the OIC’s condemnation away, however, comes at a time when India’s democratic peers and other international bodies are expressing similar condemnatory remarks.
Last week, Freedom House, a nonpartisan pro-democracy advocacy organization, flagged India as a democracy in decline for its “harsh crackdown on political rights and civil liberties,” including a 217-day Internet shutdown in Kashmir, and its suppression of anti-CAA protesters, journalists, and academics.
“The Indian government has taken its Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level with a succession of policies,” the group said, “threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world.”
No doubt India is finding itself increasingly isolated, at least diplomatically, because of its implicit support for racist and discriminatory policies that target Muslims in the legislature, courts, and streets. That international bodies such as the OIC, which have reliably offered New Delhi steadfast support, are now distancing themselves from Modi’s BJP government should be seen by New Delhi as an unmistakable warning to change course.