Indian police said Friday they have launched an investigation into an event where Hindu hardliners called for mass killings of minority Muslims.
A speaker at the gathering earlier this month told the crowd that people should not worry about going to jail for killing Muslims, according to a video verified as genuine by AFP.
“Even if just a hundred of us become soldiers and kill two million of them, we will be victorious… If you stand with this attitude only then will you able to protect sanatana dharma (an absolute form of Hinduism),” the woman said.
The meeting in the northern holy city of Haridwar was attended by at least one member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The party stands accused of — but denies — encouraging the persecution of Muslims and other minorities by hardline Hindu nationalists since coming to power in 2014.
Prominent Muslim MP Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted that the comments in the video were a “clear case of incitement to genocide”.
Modi’s government has not commented on the event.
The woman in the video reportedly added that Indians should “pray to Nathuram Godse”, the Hindu extremist who assassinated Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
Another delegate, Prabodhanand Giri — the head of a fringe Hindu group who is often photographed with senior BJP members — called for a “cleansing” and for those present to be “ready to die or kill”.
“Like Myanmar, the police, politicians, the army and every Hindu in India must pick up weapons and do this cleansing. There is no other option left,” he is heard to say.
A military crackdown in Myanmar on the heavily persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority is thought to have killed thousands and has forced huge numbers to flee.
A third speaker is heard to say that he wished he had killed Modi’s predecessor, the main opposition Congress party’s Manmohan Singh, who was the first Sikh Prime minister of India.
Another said he had asked hotels from his state not to allow Christmas celebrations. The statement was met with cheers from the audience.
The BJP denies accusations that its agenda is to turn officially secular and pluralistic India into a pure Hindu nation.
Many in the Muslim community say they have been increasingly subject to attacks and threats since Modi, a lifelong member of a hardline Hindu group, came to power.
Christians have also been subject to violence and harassment, with the BJP government in the southern state of Karnataka this week becoming the latest to introduce legislation outlawing “forceful” religious conversions.
Police in Uttarakhand state, where the controversial gathering took place, told AFP they are “investigating the matter and strict action will be taken against the guilty.”
Michael Kugelman from the Wilson Center hit out at the Indian government over its silence.
“…not a peep, much less a condemnation, from the gov’t. Sad truth is that this deafening silence isn’t the least bit surprising,” he tweeted Thursday.