Innocent Muslims being murdered in India due to Hindu radicalism

ITV News reveals the impact of the dangerous rise of Hindu radicalism, inspired by - critics tell us - Prime Minister Modi & his party, as John Ray reports.

Internationally renowned Indian writer and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy, has told ITV News she fears for the survival of her country's democracy due to the unchecked and dangerous rise of Hindu radicalism.

Ahead of India's elections next year, she says we are all "braced for a campaign of blood" after a surge in shocking attacks on Muslims, including many fatal, across the country in recent weeks.

The incidents include:

  • Three train passengers reportedly killed just for being Muslim by a Hindu policeman, who is caught on camera saying afterwards "If you want to live in India then you need to support Modi";

  • A 19-year-old deputy Imam killed while sleeping, reportedly by a right-wing Hindu nationalist gang who stabbed him 13 times and torched his mosque;

  • Muslim homes and businesses burnt by vigilante Hindu groups, some while police were present, it's claimed;

  • Hundreds of Muslim homes being bulldozed to rubble by authorities in one state, leading the regional High Court to question whether it amounts to state sponsored "ethnic cleansing";

  • A Hindu militant telling an adulating crowd that if Hindus don't get their way, then blood will be spilt.

It's left communities within India's minority Muslim population grieving, fearing for their lives, and, in the areas impacted, fleeing their homes. 

ITV News has travelled across the country filming the impact of the violence and tracked down the relatives and victims of these incidents, some of which are speaking out for the first time.

Syed Saifullah ran a mobile phone store in the central Indian city of Hyderabad. He was on his way home on a cross country train when he was shot dead in cold blood.

ITV News has seen moving footage of Saifullah lying in a pool of blood at the feet of the accused, a Railway Protection Police Officer, who says to the remaining passengers: "If you want to live in India, you need to support Modi."

Anjum Shaheen has been left widowed through the death of her husband, Syed Saifullah. Credit: ITV News

Saifullah's widow, Anjum Shaheen, invited ITV News to her home in Hyderabad, where we met her and her three daughters, including a young baby.

She told us that she didn't have the words to describe how she felt about what had just happened. What she is struggling with too is looking after young children alone and breaking the news to them. 

She said: "They ask me to call their father, and I just keep telling them I can't get through."

Saifullah's younger brother, Syed Younus, shared with us his fear that the tragedy has caused.

He said: "They're asking our names and then killing us. What if I go out and that is also my fate?"

Syed Younus has questioned his own safety as a Muslim in the wake of his brother's death. Credit: ITV News

In a country where your name can often give away your identity, he's referring to the fact that those visibly Muslim - for example, with a beard - or whose name gives that faith away have increasingly become more vulnerable, especially as the rhetoric against Muslims by Hindu radicals grow. 

As we travelled across the country, Muslim families confirmed to us that they had never felt more scared, and admitted there had never been a worse time to be a Muslim.

On the same night, Shadab Anwar heard about these shocking train shootings across the country and called his younger brother, a deputy Imam at a mosque near the capital Delhi, to ask him to get back to their parents' home in the north of the country, Bihar, as soon as possible.

Mohammad Saad, 19, told his brother he wanted to lead the sunrise prayers and then would return. He reassured him there was a heightened police presence so everything would be ok. Sadly, two hours later, his brother received a call to say Mohammad was dead. Unconfirmed reports from a local hospital doctor claim he was stabbed 13 times.

Mohammad Saad died after being reportedly stabbed 13 times. Credit: ITV News

His brother told us that the young Imam used to speak about Hindu-Muslim unity and the two communities being like one. He said it made the way he died even more cruel. 

Mohammad barely had a chance to live his youth. He had so many dreams.

His mosque was also torched, like other homes and businesses nearby, which we found and filmed, burnt to the ground. Victims said this was by Hindu radicalised mobs, with accusations from some that the police were present but didn't act.

In other areas, Muslims are losing their homes not due to the actions of these militant groups, but the local authorities. 

Nirjari had lived in her home for 50 years until this month when hers and hundreds of other homes in a Muslim majority area of Haryana were demolished by the local state government. The development followed violent and fatal religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims nearby.  

Destroyed homes in a Muslim majority area of Haryana. Credit: ITV News

Speaking for the first time to ITV News, she cried emotionally, saying: "They should have run the bulldozers over me too. Where can I go now?"

The state's high court has questioned if the demolitions constitute state-sponsored ethnic cleansing.

All this comes as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke last week on the country's Independence Day.

"Today we have demography, democracy and diversity. This trio of demography, democracy and diversity has the capacity to fulfil the dreams of India," he said.

Narendra Modi used his Independence Day speech to speak about 'democracy and diversity' in India. Credit: AP

But as the country heads towards its 2024 elections, critics say India today is representing anything but, as Modi's ruling BJP party is accused of fostering the environment in which religious extremism is thriving.

The government's Hindu Rule 'Rashtra' agenda is associated with inflaming anti Muslim sentiments. 

Since Modi and his Hindu nationalist party came to power almost a decade ago, India has seen a gradual rise in violence against the country's minority, yet sizeable, Muslim population - around 200 million people, or 15% of its 1.4 billion residents.

When we asked Arundhati about India's status as the world's biggest democracy, she responded: "In my view, it's been in doubt for a long time." 

Watch ITV News' full interview with Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy

She highlighted how the RSS ideology - which is followed by the ruling BJP party - has from its early days "referred to the Muslims of India, like the Jews of Germany, you know, quite openly".

She added: "But now I'm not just talking about massacres, I'm talking about laws being changed, about people being killed for disagreeing.

"I'm talking about the dismantling of the state as we knew it, to a place where Muslims are being reduced to actually being second class citizens for them, the laws that exist in.

"So, we are not just talking about debt and riots and killing and programs, we are talking about the systematic dismantling and repurposing of being in state of being Indian Constitution.

"Hindu radical mobs come out with swords, with guns calling for rape, calling for annihilation. And you know, quite often they are watched by the police, who do not intervene.

"The courts don't do very much. Muslims who protest are either killed, jailed or the houses are demolished summarily.

"So, we can't give up hope, but we are in a very, very precarious situation. We are on our own. No one's going to help. No one can help. And Muslims are very seriously on their own... and vulnerable.

"So, we're in an extremely dangerous position, which of course, the world is not paying much attention to because India is a great market."

ITV News approached the Indian government for a response but have not received a reply.

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