India’s top court on Wednesday said it will take up a petition seeking prosecution of several saffron-robed Hindu religious leaders for allegedly making highly provocative speeches against Muslims at a closed-door meeting last month.
Three Supreme Court judges said they were issuing a notice to the Uttarakhand state government that they will investigate the case next week.
The religious leaders called on Hindus to arm themselves for “a genocide” against Muslims during a Dharam Sansad (religious conclave) in the northern holy town of Haridwar in Uttarakhand in December, according to a police complaint.
The police said they were questioning suspects, but no arrests have been made.
“Like Myanmar, our police, our politicians, our Army and every Hindu must pick up weapons and conduct a Safayi Abhiyan (ethnic cleansing). There is no other option left,” Swami Prabodhanand from the Hindu Raksha Sena said. Prabhodhanand is one of the organizers of the meeting at Haridwar.
Another speaker, Poonam Shakun Pandey aka ‘Sadhvi Annapurna’ echoed the call for genocide. “If you want to finish them [Muslims] off, then kill them… We need 100 soldiers who can kill 20 lakh [2 million] of them to win this,” she said.
Uttarakhand state is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose rise to power in 2014, and a landslide reelection in 2019, has led to a spike in attacks against Muslims and other minorities.
Muslims comprise nearly 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people.
The petition filed by retired Judge Anjana Prakash stated that the speeches made at the Hindu religious leaders’ congregation “pose a grave threat not just to the unity and integrity of our country but also endanger the lives of millions of Muslim citizens,” said Bar & Bench, an online portal for Indian legal news.
On December 31, five former chiefs of staff of the Indian armed forces and over a hundred other people including army veterans, civilian officials and prominent citizens wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They drew attention to the “open call for genocide of Indian Muslims.” A speaker at the event had “made a call to the army and police to pick up weapons and participate in the cleanliness drive (safai abhiyan),” they said in the letter, pointing out that “this amounts to asking the army to participate in genocide of our own citizens,” stressing that this “is condemnable and unacceptable.”
Last month, Indian police arrested a Hindu religious leader for allegedly making a derogatory speech against India’s independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and praising his assassin.
At a two-day event in Raipur, Kalicharan Maharaj had said, “The target of Islam is to capture nation through politics. In front of our eyes they had captured in 1947 (referring to partition)…They had earlier captured Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. They captured Bangladesh and Pakistan through politics…I salute Nathuram Godse that he killed Gandhi.”
Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu extremist during a prayer meeting in the Indian capital in 1948, because he was considered sympathetic toward Muslims during the partition of the Indian subcontinent by British colonialists in 1947 into secular India and Islamic Pakistan.
Kalicharan Maharaj was arrested in central Madhya Pradesh state for allegedly promoting hatred between religious groups in a speech.
If convicted, he could be jailed for up to five years.