Amit Shah: A Stark Obstacle to Resolving India's Refugee Crisis

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah's nationalist ideology exacerbates India's refugee crisis, violating human rights standards.

7/26/20233 min read

brown concrete building under blue sky during daytime
brown concrete building under blue sky during daytime

Today, we delve into a topic of paramount importance - the role of the Indian Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah, in the deepening refugee crisis in India. As head of the Ministry of Home Affairs since 2019, Amit Shah has overseen domestic affairs, notably including immigration and security matters. A close confidante of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Shah has been in the limelight for reasons that are distressing to human rights advocates globally.

To fully grasp the issue, we need to look back at Shah's history. Shah is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a hardline nationalist organization associated with India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), where he served as the president from 2014 to 2020. The RSS is known for its strict ideology, opposing individual freedoms such as homosexuality. Shah has built a reputation on this platform, often inciting violence and hatred, particularly against Muslims.

Shah's stint as the Home Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2010 under Modi's leadership is marred with severe human rights violations. The infamous 2002 Gujarat riots saw an estimated 1,000 Muslims killed, 150,000 displaced, and 20,000 homes destroyed under Shah's watch. In a disturbingly cavalier remark in 2022, Shah stated that his handling of the riots "taught a lesson" to the protesters.

Shah's history of alleged human rights violations extends to more personal allegations. In 2010, he was arrested and charged with murder in relation to an extortion racket he was purportedly running, using local police officers to threaten and extort money from businesses. He spent three months in jail and was exiled from Gujarat due to fears of him influencing the ongoing case. However, he was cleared of the charges in 2014 under questionable circumstances.

Shah's nationalist ideology has found a fertile ground in the current refugee crisis. He has been openly hostile towards Muslim immigrants and refugees, dehumanizing them as "termites" and "illegal infiltrators." In 2019, he announced plans to use the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to expel certain immigrants from India. He also introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), a law that would exclude Muslim refugees from attaining citizenship while allowing other refugees a pathway.

His track record of overseeing violence and human rights violations is also evident in the handling of the Kashmir issue. Since 2019, under Shah's leadership, the government stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, imposed strict curfews, restricted internet access, and suppressed opposition. Despite international criticism and allegations of war crimes, Shah continues to defend the BJP's policies in Kashmir, even claiming they have brought peace to the state.

In a clear dismissal of international human rights norms, Shah claimed that Western standards do not apply to India. His disdain extends to journalists, whom he frequently equates to terrorists. He has applauded India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), notorious for its persecution of human rights activists and journalists, as a "prime anti-terror investigation agency."

In a deeply concerning move in 2021, Shah was implicated in a scandal involving the use of Israeli-made Pegasus software to spy on critics of the government. Despite widespread outcry, he remains in office. In 2023, he supported legislation allowing the police to collect individuals’ biometric data, raising fears of India becoming a "police state" and potentially criminalizing human rights advocacy.

Shah's discourse is consistently filled with incendiary rhetoric. His speeches have resulted in him being banned from public speaking at times due to their inflammatory nature. He has been known to call for violent responses to dissent, praising the Delhi police in 2020 for suppressing protests against the citizenship laws, despite allegations of police involvement in attacks on protesters.

In essence, Shah's stance and actions, driven by a deeply-rooted nationalist ideology, have severely compounded India's refugee problem. It is critical for global attention to focus on these issues, pressuring the Indian government to adhere to international human rights norms, and advocate for the fair treatment of all refugees, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

In the face of such adversity, the necessity for initiatives like the Human Rights Index becomes even more urgent. We stand united in our commitment to raise awareness and drive change in the face of such systemic discrimination. Join us in this mission to ensure that human rights are upheld, irrespective of borders.

Yours in solidarity,

The Human Rights Index Team