Following a petition seeking to punish numerous Hindu religious leaders for allegedly calling for the “genocide” of Muslims during a closed-door meeting last month, India’s Supreme Court has sent notice to a northern Himalayan state.
Three Supreme Court judges announced on Wednesday that they will probe the case next week after alerting the Uttarakhand state administration.
During a meeting in the northern holy town of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, in December, religious leaders allegedly called on Hindus to arm themselves in order to kill Muslims, according to a police complaint.
Although police indicated they were questioning suspects in connection with the hate speech, no arrests have been made.
Outrage was stirred by videos of the incident, sparking calls for action. In one video that went viral, a speaker at the rally told the audience that killing Muslims would not land them in jail.
“We will be victorious even if only a hundred of us become troops and murder two million of them… Only by maintaining this mentality will you be able to safeguard’s anatana dharma’ [an absolute form of Hinduism],’ the woman stated.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governs Uttarakhand, which has seen an increase in violence on Muslims and other minorities since coming to office in 2014.
According to Bar & Bench, an online portal for Indian legal news, the petition filed by retired Judge Anjana Prakash stated that the speeches made at the Hindu religious leaders’ congregation “pose a grave threat not only to the unity and integrity of our country but also endanger the lives of millions of Muslim citizens.”
Muslims in India have faced discrimination and religious persecution under the BJP government, which critics claim is attempting to marginalise Muslims and transform a secular, democratic India into a Hindu state.
The president of India’s largest socio-religious Muslim organisation, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, accused the government of turning a blind eye to anti-Muslim hate speech.
Kalicharan Maharaj, a Hindu religious leader from India, was detained last month for reportedly making a disrespectful speech about India’s freedom leader Mohandas Gandhi and applauding his assassin.
During the partition of the Indian subcontinent by British colonial rulers in 1947, Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu fanatic during a prayer meeting in the Indian capital in 1948 because he campaigned for Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
Hindu vigilantes tried to prevent Muslims from offering Friday prayers in the northern state of Haryana, which is also governed by the BJP, by chanting religious slogans and heckling worshippers in the face of heavy police security last month.
Hindu hardliners set fire to the residence of Salman Khurshid, a Muslim former foreign minister, in November after he linked the type of Hindu nationalism that has blossomed under Modi to “extreme groups” like ISIL (ISIS).
Anti-conversion legislation has also been enacted in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh, with other governments announcing plans to enact similar legislation.
The regulations were enacted in reaction to a conspiracy theory that claimed Muslim males were seducing Hindu women into marriage in order to convert them to Islam. Anti-conversion laws have also been justified as a result of allegations that Christian missionaries convert destitute Hindus. In recent months, a number of churches have been attacked.
Modi’s BJP and its ideological father, the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have issued a warning to Hindus about religious conversions to Islam and Christianity, and have called for action to prevent a “demographic imbalance” in the world’s second most populous nation.
Muslims make up about 14% of India’s population of 1.4 billion people. Hindus still account for about 80% of the population.