Gurpreet Singh: Attack on pilgrims sparks outcry, but what about terror endured by India's minorities?

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      The recent terror attack on innocent Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir has evoked outrage around the world.

      Seven people died and more than dozen were injured on July 10 after gunmen targeted a bus carrying worshippers to the Amarnath shrine, which houses an iced idol of Lord Shiva. 

      Every year thousands of Hindus visit Amarnath from across India. Due to an ongoing armed insurgency by Kashmiri militants fighting for the right to self-determination, Hindu pilgrims are ordinarily given a massive security cover.

      There have been numerous attacks on them in the past.  Authorities have frequently blamed extremists aided and abetted by the neighbouring Pakistan for violence against Hindus in Kashmir. 

      Following the latest attack, a number of countries expressed their outrage and sent messages of condolence to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. 

      Worshippers at a Hindu temple in Surrey paid respects to the victims of an attack in Kashmir.

      In Surrey, special prayers and a vigil were organized by members of the Vedic Hindu Temple in memory of those who died in the attack. 

      Notably, Modi visited this temple in 2015. Among the participants were Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains, while Surrey-Green Timbers NDP MLA Rachna Singh (the wife of this writer) sent her condolences to the temple secretary Vinay Sharma. 

      Speakers at the temple unanimously condemned this act of violence.

      Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains was among those who attended a service for victims of the most recent attack on Hindu pilgrims in northern India.

      While anger over this barbaric incident is understandable and justified, there has been mostly silence around the world over continued attacks against minorities in India under Modi.

      Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, violence against religious minorities particularly Muslims,  Christians, and Dalits (the so-called untouchables) has grown. The so-called cow vigilantes have intensified their campaign against these groups.

      Since Hindus consider the cow as a sacred animal, people belonging to these communities are being attacked after being accused of consuming beef.  In several instances Muslims have been lynched to death by the mobs led by people with allegiance to the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party (BJP). 

      It is pertinent to mention that the BJP government was complicit in the massacre of Muslims in the western Indian state of Gujarat back in 2002. Modi was the state's chief minister at that time.

      Though he was never convicted, human rights activists believe he was directly involved in the pogrom that followed the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. That incident left more than 50 people dead and was blamed on Muslim fundamentalists by the Modi government. 

      In addition, Christians, Sikhs, and Dalits have come under attack from the BJP supporters in Gujarat on separate occasions.

      Despite ongoing terrorism of Hindu extremists for the past several months and public demonstrations against them in 16 cities of India, many countries, including Canada, have never came out with a strong condemnation.

      This may partly be because India is known to be the world's largest democracy and partly because it is a growing economy that remains a centre of attraction to foreign investors. 

      Whatever may be the excuse, most nations today are consumed by Islamophobia, which is one explanation why Hindu extremism is not being seen as a major threat to the peace and harmony.

      Terrorism in any form must be condemned with equal zeal. If the lives of the Hindu pilgrims were precious, so were the lives of the Muslims who have been murdered by extremists who continue to enjoy impunity under a right wing government. 

      Lastly, we still have to wait until we get to know the full truth behind the attack on Amarnath pilgrims. There are some serious gaps in the story that give credence to many conspiracy theories. 

      The temple in Amarnath houses an iced idol of Lord Shiva. 

      The bus that came under attack was from Gujarat, which is heading for the assembly election. Already, the election campaign has become controversial there because of the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the BJP leaders.

      The attack on the pilgrims might add more fuel to the fire as a few BJP leaders have started spewing venom against Islam. 

      Also, the bus was not registered with the shrine board and therefore was not a part of the convoy that is given sufficient security cover. On top of that, the bus violated the pilgrimate rules by travelling outside permissible hours in a area where there have been disturbances. 

      Right wing commentators have prematurely started speculating over the involvement of Pakistan and Islamic extremists, whereas no group has taken responsibility for the attack so far. 

      Whether it was done by the Kashmiri separatists or was an inside job may not be known soon. But what can surely be said is that it was aimed at dividing people and disturbing communal harmony. By jumping to the gun, we risk playing into the hands of such divisive forces.

      Indians Abroad for Pluralist India will hold a rally to support a pluralist India at Surrey City Hall Plaza at 5 p.m. next Sunday (July 30). The location (13450 104 Avenue) is easily accessible from Surrey Central Station.

      Gurpreet Singh is a broadcaster and the cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. He's also the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector and Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of the Air India Victims' Families. Both were published by Chetna Parkashan.