“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
– Malcolm X
The word ‘Secular’ was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Amendment to prevent association of the state with any particular religion. The main objective for the addition was the assimilation of all religions in one sphere, where people from all the religions can reside peacefully.
The current Status Quo in the country suggests otherwise. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Report 2017, the Indian model of Secularism exists neither on papers nor in practice. Although there have been numerous cases of violence and cruelty against the minorities in India in the past, they have increased drastically after the coming of BJP in power after the 2014 elections. The Modi led government has been accused of advocating state-sponsored oppression of minorities by propagating Hindutva in order to establish a Hindu Rashtra, which stands contrary to the very principles of democracy and secularism on which the country stands today. This is substantiated by the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which provides citizenship to non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, thereby discriminating against the Muslims without any reasonable nexus provided in Article 14 of the constitution, leaving them in the lurch.
According to the USCIRF Annual Report 2017, BJP and its affiliated groups which seek to make India a Hindu state have been using violence, discriminatory acts and political rhetoric against the minorities in the country to create a sense of terror amongst them. The rhetoric created by the government has led to numerous cases of hate crimes, mob lynching, harassment, assaults and forced conversions against the minorities, with the Muslim community being the most affected.
The increasing cow vigilantism has led to innumerable cases of mob lynching against innocent Muslims who were murdered in cold blood based on some rumour by BJP affiliated groups under the garb of cow protection. In the 2015 Dadri mob lynching case, a mob of villagers killed a Muslim man for the suspicion of slaughtering a cow. Similarly, a man was brutally murdered by a mob on the suspicion of being a cow smuggler. According to the Human Rights Watch Report 2020, a total of 50 people have been killed in such attacks from since May 2015. According to another report by the Amnesty International, arrests were made by the police but they were not converted into convictions.
One of the instruments used by the government to perpetrate violence on minorities is the Police force, which has been involved in arbitrary detention, harassment, abuse, torture and extrajudicial killings. The callousness of the Police force was evident in the Delhi Riots when it did nothing to stop the barbarity by Hindu mobs who slashed and killed over 35 Muslims in broad daylight. The Central Government was accused of sponsoring the riots against the Muslims in the backdrop of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Human Rights Watch Report 2018, in its evaluation, noted that the Police filed complaints against the victims of communal violence instead of taking action against the perpetrators, which clearly shows the carelessness of the forces who are there to protect the citizens and not to harass them.
Besides Muslims, other minority groups such as Christians and Dalits have been suffering at the hands of the government despite the presence of various provisions in the Constitution such as Article 14, 15(1), 21 and 25(1) which provide for their well-being and protection. There have been reports of Christians facing persecution and violence from authorities. The USCRIF Annual Report 2017 says that different Christian communities faced harassment attributed to Hindu Nationalist groups. Similarly, Dalits are being continuously forced to live an impoverished life despite the abolition of untouchability by Article 17 of the Constitution. The community is still viewed as inferior to others. The Freedom House Report of 2018 said that many Dalits are still denied access to land, are abused and forced to live in miserable conditions.
This form of ruthless oppression of the minorities in India clearly oversteps the wall of democracy, violating various domestic statutes including the Indian Constitution and the Indian Penal Code, while breaching International Instruments such as UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR at the same time.
Discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities is still rampant in the United States on a wide scale, with the rights of African-American and Hispanic communities being trampled upon on a daily basis. The oppression of these minorities is ingrained within the very system of the country, influencing people’s lives in every sphere from housing to education.
The evolution of racial discrimination in the US has been a tumultuous one. The first step taken towards materializing the ‘All Men are Created Equal’ clause in the Declaration of Independence was the Emancipation Proclamation by then-President Abraham Lincoln which resulted in the independence of all slaves from serfdom. Even though this didn’t put an end to slavery altogether, it is still considered a momentous step towards annihilation of racial discrimination.
The discrimination against the minorities was furthered by the imposition of Jim Crow laws which enforced racial segregation in the US. These laws were upheld in the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson which established the “separate but equal doctrine” as a constitutional justification for segregation. This decision was followed until the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 which held the racial segregation of children in public schools as unconstitutional, thereby refuting and overturning the “separate but equal” principle, observing the principle being a farce and not being equal at all.
The next remarkable achievement towards attaining equal rights for the African-Americans came after the passage of Civil Rights Act, 1964 and Voting Rights Act, 1965 which contained steps to deconstruct racial discrimination and establish enfranchisement rights respectively.
Today, the racism in the US can be divided into three categories: individual, institutional and cultural. Individual racism refers to the hostile behaviour shown towards the members of the minority racial groups. Institutional racism manifests itself in the form of housing, unequal opportunities and educational facilities. Cultural racism revolves around the notion of majority groups being more worthy and valuable than the minority ones.
Besides these ingrained form of discrimination, physical violence against the minorities is widespread in the country with cases of mob lynching, harassment, abuse and torture happening frequently countrywide. There were as many as 4,400 lynching cases in the US between the end of Reconstruction period and the Second World War. Lynching was made a federal crime only in the year 2018 which goes on to show the inconsequential treatment meted out to such a grave matter by the previous governments. There have also been instances of massacres against the Black community, the major ones being the Colfax and Tulsa Race Massacre in which hundreds of African-Americans were ruthlessly murdered.
The perpetual presence of ingrained discrimination of the minorities in the US is quite evident from the death of an African-American man George Floyd, who was handcuffed and pinned down by a police officer. His demise sparked nationwide protests in the US, the importance of which can be determined by the fact that the people came on the streets to support black rights in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. This clearly shows the worsening situation of the minority communities in the country. These protests saw the emergence of hashtags in the form of #BlackLivesMatter and #Blackouttuesday as a collective action towards condemning police brutality and racism.
The Hispanics are the other community who have been pestered by the evils of widespread oppression and discrimination. The Hispanics and Latinos residing in the US are treated unequally with the rest of the indigenous population, considered “foreigners” despite their association with the country. The hate crimes such as the El Paso shootings against the Hispanics have increased exponentially recently, with some of the attackers seeking motivation from President Trump’s rhetoric against the community, which indicates the interference and intolerance of the state towards the minorities.
The observation of the treatment meted out to the minorities, be it religious, linguistic or ethnic in India and US, establishes the failure of the state to control the worsening situation. Had both the governments abided by their respective Constitutions and International instrument and acted upon the stringency of the statues, the present condition of the minority communities could have been averted. The general notion in both the nations seems to be that the minorities being different in religion or ethnicity do not belong to the general population, which needs to be eradicated as soon as possible in order to establish an environment of tranquillity and social stability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bitthal Sharma is a third-year student from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law. His areas of interest include Constitutional Law, International Law, and Human Rights Law. He also has a keen interest in moot courts and MUNs. Outside the legal sphere, some of his hobbies include watching football and listening to music and podcasts.