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India’s Hindu Nationalists Attack Muslim Students Praying on Campus


Gujarat University, Ahmedabad. Photo credit: News24


On March 16th, 2024, fifteen international Muslim students were attacked by a Hindu-nationalist mob while praying on university grounds. The Muslim students were offering their nightly prayers after breaking their Ramadan  fast, at their on-campus housing at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad. A mob of around 25 people entered the premises, brandishing knives and sticks, and shouting “Jai Shri Ram” [Hail Lord Ram]. At least 5 of the international students required medical attention and were hospitalized.

 

The mob, reportedly, were angry that the students were praying in on-campus housing and not at a mosque. The students reiterated that since there were no mosques on campus nor nearby, they conducted their prayers where they lived. In addition to attacking the students, the mob also vandalized the students’ properties and ransacked their rooms. The international students, on scholarships offered by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) by the Government of India, hailed from various countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

 

At the time of the incident, the international student representative called officials responsible for the safety of international students and was told, “this is not our responsibility”. The police arrived and made no attempt to control the violent mob. The university downplayed the incident, framing it as “clash between two groups”. Instead of ensuring the safety of their students, the university issued new policies barring students from praying on campus. The Vice Chancellor of Gujarat University, Neerja Gupta, told the local media that the international students were the ones who needed “cultural sensitivity” training. Three weeks after the attacks, the international Afghan students were told to vacate their on-campus housing by Gujarat University.

 

Since becoming the governing party in 2014, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), has increasingly promoted Hindu Nationalism. This is the one of the latest incidents in a series of Islamophobic hate crimes in India. The state of Gujarat, in particular, has a marred history of Hindu nationalists attacking Muslims, such as the 2002 communal riots. The riots resulted in over 1000 people dead, predominantly Muslims. Narendra Modi (now Prime Minister of India) was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time and had ordered the police not to stop the attacks.

 

Endangered Scholars Worldwide condemns the Gujarat University’s response to the attacks and calls on the university to ensure the safety of its students while they practice their right to religious freedom. ESW further call upon the members of the international community dedicated to upholding human rights globally to join our call to hold the Indian government accountable to its commitments to uphold human rights, including freedom of religion, which it has guaranteed under international law.

 

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