Hazara Genocide & the Indian Subcontinent’s Silence
Updated: Oct 5
Afghan women display placards and chant slogans during a protest they call Stop Hazara Genocide a day after a suicide bomb attack at Dasht-e-Barchi learning center in Kabul on Friday. - / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
By Panchami Manjunatha
On September 30, 2022, the world witnessed a brutal suicide attack in the Kaaj Educational Center in Kabul, Afghanistan which claimed the lives of over 35 women and children from the Hazara community. Subsequently, Hazara women braved deadly retribution with a public protest holding banners that read “Stop Hazara Genocide”. The protest was a testament to the resilience of Hazara women and a stark reminder to contracting parties under the Genocide Convention to break free from the confines of their silence towards the atrocities being committed against the community. The violence being unleashed on Hazara’s lives in Afghanistan is neither sporadic nor neutral, it is a systemic attempt to erase their identity and threaten their existence informed by historical discrimination against their ethnicity. This constitutes genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide 1948. We at, Genocide Watch issued a genocide warning for the Hazaras in the early days of February 2022 and called for enhanced protective measures to be undertaken immediately.
In the book “Last Lectures on the Prevention and Intervention of Genocide” Dr. Gregory Stanton remarks that in rethinking genocide prevention we must pay special attention to the “bottom-up” dimension of genocide- build systems that strive to create anti-genocidal cultures. For such cultures to materialize, it is vital that we muster the political will required to recognize genocides through early warning mechanisms and intervene non-violently even before genocidal massacres begin. This can only be made possible by concerted efforts at multiple levels by people at the grassroots in schools, universities, synagogues, churches, mosques, and temples all over the world.
Today, after more than a year since the Taliban takeover, Countries neighboring Afghanistan in the Indian subcontinent (i.e Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh) are yet to acknowledge the genocide: much less take measures to arrest its occurrence. In a statement of review of Pakistan’s record by the UN Human Rights Council on January 31, 2023, India referred to attacks against the Hazaras as systemic persecution of minorities, nothing more and nothing less. Reports of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) have also regularly employed a language that refers to the persecution of Hazaras as ‘sectarian violence’.
In 2019 India passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which fast-tracks citizenship only for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain minorities fleeing persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The exclusion of Hazaras from the list serves as an unfortunate reminder of the government’s strong-arming of religion to compartmentalize humanitarian actions for specific communities. It also more importantly highlights the glaring denial and apathy of the Indian state toward employing the language of genocide recognition and prevention. This denial has grave implications for Hazaras fleeing genocidal acts and seeking safety in India as they are denied the status of refugees and subjected to deteriorating living conditions.
In 1994 President Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide sombrely expressed regret for not calling the crimes against the Tutsi their rightful name: genocide. It’s been thirty years since, and we continue to witness a lack of political will to employ the language of genocide recognition and prevention by governments worldwide. In 2005 the United Nations endorsed the responsibility to protect principle in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (A/RES/60/1). The principle embodies a political commitment of the international community to use humanitarian, diplomatic, and any other means to protect vulnerable populations at the risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes.
The ongoing genocide against the Hazaras presents a rare and important opportunity for the countries in the Indian sub-continent to re-assess their commitment to this principle. So far, Hazara’s identity as an ethnic minority has subjected them to genocidal acts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and their religious identity as Muslims has rendered them stateless and illegal in India. In light of the continuing growth of communal politics and extreme polarization of religious and ethnic identities in the subcontinent; it is imperative that we forge cross-national collaborations that are not focused on the polarization of identity markers for political gain but instead, are premised on our collective commitment to renounce the political narrative of dehumanizing “other” communities in order to secure our “own.” Building an “anti-genocidal” culture is no longer an option but an obligation to safeguard the future and stability of the sub-continent.
Panchami Manjunatha is a Legal Associate at Genocide Watch.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Genocide Watch