HARIDWAR, India — The police officer arrived at the Hindu temple here with a warning to the monks: Don’t repeat your hate speech.
Ten days earlier, before a packed audience and thousands watching online, the monks had called for violence against the country’s minority Muslims. Their speeches, in one of India’s holiest cities, promoted a genocidal campaign to “kill two million of them” and urged an ethnic cleansing of the kind that targeted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
When videos of the event provoked national outrage, the police came. The saffron-clad preachers questioned whether the officer could be objective.
Yati Narsinghanand, the event’s firebrand organizer known for his violent rhetoric, assuaged their concerns.
warned that “inciting people against each other is a crime against the nation” without making a specific reference to Haridwar. Junior members of Mr. Modi’s party attended the event, and the monks have often posted pictures with senior leaders.
“You have persons giving hate speech, actually calling for genocide of an entire group, and we find reluctance of the authorities to book these people,” Rohinton Fali Nariman, a recently retired Indian Supreme Court judge, said in a public lecture.“Unfortunately, the other higher echelons of the ruling party are not only being silent on hate speech, but almost endorsing it.”
increasingly emboldened vigilante groups.
Vigilantes have beaten people accused of disrespecting cows, considered holy by some Hindus; dragged couples out of trains, cafes and homes on suspicion that Hindu women might be seduced by Muslim men; and barged into religious gatherings where they suspect people are being converted.
Myanmar was an example of how the easy dissemination of misinformation and hate speech on social media prepares the ground for violence. The difference in India, he said, is that it would be the mobs taking action instead of the military.
“You have to stop it now,” he said, “because once the mobs take over it could really turn deadly.”
The Dasna Devi temple in Uttar Pradesh state, where Mr. Narsinghanand is the chief priest, is peppered with signs that call to prepare for a “dharm yudh,” or religious war. One calls on “Hindus, my lions” to value their weapons “just the way dedicated wives value their husbands.”
The temple’s main sign prohibits Muslims from entering.
vast network of volunteers to mobilize voters and secure victories.
When he was chief minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi saw firsthand how unchecked communal tensions could turn into bloodletting.
In 2002, a train fire killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. Although the cause was disputed, violent mobs, in response, targeted the Muslim community, leaving more than 1,000 people dead, many burned alive.
Rights organizations and opposition leaders accused Mr. Modi of looking the other way. He rejected the allegations as political attacks.
took an oath to turn India into a Hindu state, even if it meantkilling for it.
The police arrested Mr. Narsinghanand on Jan. 15, and he was charged in court with hate speech.
“He said nothing wrong,” said Swami Amritanand, an organizer of the Haridwar event. “We are doing what America is doing, we are doing what Britain is doing.”
Mr. Amritanand said the call for arms was justified because “within the next 10 to 12 years there will be a horrible war that will play out in India.”
Late last month, the monks again sounded a violent call to create a Hindu state, this time at an event hundreds of miles away from Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh. They threatened violence — referencing a bombing of India’s assembly — if Mr. Narsinghanand was not released.
Ms. Pandey described their actions as defensive. “We must prepare to protect ourselves,” she said.
To the Haridwar police, the event in Uttar Pradesh did not count as a repeat offense. Rakendra Singh Kathait, the senior police officer in Haridwar, said Mr. Narsinghanand was in jail because he had acted again in the city; others like Ms. Pandey got a warning.
“If she goes and says it from Kolkata, it doesn’t count as repeat here,” Mr. Kathait said.
A court in Myanmar on Monday sentenced Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s ousted civilian leader, to four years on charges of inciting public unrest and breaching Covid-19 protocols. She is facing a series of rulings that could keep her locked up for the rest of her life.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained in a military coup in February,had been facing a maximum imprisonment of 102 years on a total of 11 charges.
Her trials, which the United Nations and foreign governments have described as politically motivated, have been held in closed-door hearings in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital. The junta has barred all five of her lawyers from speaking to the news media, saying that their communications could “destabilize the country.”
“This ridiculous ruling is a travesty of justice,” Charles Santiago, a Malaysian legislator and chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said in a statement.
Mr. Santiago said the sentencing was further evidence that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “must hold the line against this illegal takeover” by the junta.
Prosecutors have continued to slap more charges on Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as her case proceeded. The verdicts rendered on Monday are the first of several that are expected to be announced in the coming months.
The charge of breaching Covid-19 protocols stems from an episode during the 2020 election campaign in which Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi stood outside, in a face mask and face shield, and waved to supporters passing by in vehicles.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, is a flawed hero for a troubled nation.
She is held up as an almost godlike figure among her supporters in Myanmar, who describe her as a defender of the country’s democracy — a struggle for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize. But her reputation on the international stage was tarnished over her complicity in the military’s mass atrocities against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group.
The guilty verdict is likely to galvanize a protest movement that has spurred thousands of people to take up arms against the army since February, when the generals seized power.
On Sunday morning, a military truck plowed into a group of protesters who were carrying banners bearing her portrait and quotations of hers on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s most populous city, causing fatalities. At night, protesters continued to demonstrate in the streets, and residents banged pots and pans to register their anger.
In the months since the coup, people have gathered in the streets, doctors and nurses have stopped work in protest, and many have refused to pay taxes in a campaign known as the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Despite the threat of arrest, there is still widespread support for the movement. A growing number of soldiers are defecting, teaming up with armed protesters and insurgent groups to launch hit-and-run attacks against the military.
The junta has responded by cracking down — it has killed more than 1,300 people and arrested more than 10,600 others, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a rights organization based in Thailand.
For many of her supporters, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was seen as the only politician who could lead Myanmar toward full democracy.
After a previous coup, in 1962, the military ruled the country for half a century. When Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was elected in 2015, she was forced to share power with the army, which appointed 25 percent of Parliament. In November 2020, she led her party to a landslide election victory, trouncing the military-backed opposition party.
She has not been seen in public or been able to speak to anyone aside from her lawyers since she was detained on Feb. 1. Just hours before she and her colleagues from the National League of Democracy Party were to take their seats in Parliament, military officers detained them, accusing them of voter fraud. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the charge.
Rights activists have condemned the charge of incitement, saying that it is used to intimidate critics of the military. It carries a maximum sentence of three years and states that anyone who “publishes or circulates any statement, rumor or report” with “intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public” could be found liable.
At night in the refugee camps, with only a thin tarpaulin wall as protection, Mohammed waits for the men to come and kill him.
In less than a month, assassins have killed at least eight people in the Rohingya refugee settlements of southeastern Bangladesh, silencing those who have dared to speak out against the violent gangs that plague the camps. As with Mr. Mohammed, the militants threatened their victims before they killed, leaving their targets in a perpetual panic.
“I am living under the knife of a fearful and depressing life,” said Mr. Mohammed, a community organizer whose full name is not being used because of the documented risks he faces. “I came to Bangladesh from Myanmar because I would be killed there. Here, also, there are no guarantees for a safe life.”
In the world’s largest single refugee encampment, life is becoming unlivable. Already, Rohingya Muslims had to flee ethnic cleansing in their native Myanmar, ending up in a sprawl of shelters that ranks among the most tightly packed places on earth. Now, among the warrens of tents clinging to denuded hills, militants search for recruits, drug traffickers roam and kidnappers prey on women and children.
Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA.
Mohib Ullah, a fellow Rohingya community leader, was killed by gunmen in late September. His fear intensified after seven men associated with an Islamic school that had stood up to ARSA militants were shot and stabbed to death.
Bhasan Char, a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal that human rights groups have called a floating prison. ARSA has less sway there.
In October, U.N.H.C.R. and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for 80,000 or so Rohingya to be transferred to Bhasan Char, on top of the 20,000 who have already been moved there.
Among the first to be resettled on Bhasan Char were Rohingya Christians, a persecuted minority within a persecuted minority. Rohingya Christians in the camps have been kidnapped, police reports have documented.
Last October, one of the Christian families, since relocated to the island, sought protection from the United Nations after ARSA militants threatened them with abduction.
The family was given refuge for one night in a U.N.H.C.R. safehouse near the camps but was ordered to leave the next day by Bangladeshi staff, two family members said. With nowhere to go, a relative, Abdu Taleb, helped them on a bus to escape the ARSA militants who were menacing outside.
The escape plan failed, according to a police report filed shortly after the incident. The militants boarded the bus and abducted Mr. Taleb and the family. Mr. Taleb and the male head of the family were held in a dark place for nearly four months, where he said the militants tortured them, pulling out one of his teeth.
From Bhasan Char, where he now lives in a barrack surrounded by the sea, Mr. Taleb said he was finally at peace.
“I came in search of safety,” Mr. Taleb said. “I found security.”
DHAKA, Bangladesh — Its name translates into “floating island,” and for up to 100,000 desperate war refugees, the low-slung landmass is supposed to be home.
One refugee, Munazar Islam, initially thought it would be his. He and his family of four fled Myanmar in 2017 after the military there unleashed a campaign of murder and rape that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing. After years in a refugee camp prone to fires and floods, he accepted an invitation from the government of neighboring Bangladesh to move to the island, Bhasan Char.
Mr. Islam’s relief was short lived. Jobs on the island were nonexistent. Police officers controlled the refugees’ movements and sometimes barred residents from mingling with neighbors, or children from playing together outside. The island was vulnerable to flooding and cyclones and, until relatively recently, would occasionally disappear underwater.
So, in August, Mr. Islam paid human smugglers about $400 to ferry his family somewhere else.
“When I got the chance, I paid and left,” said Mr. Islam, who asked that his location not be revealed because leaving Bhasan Char is illegal. “I died every day on that island, and I didn’t want to be stuck there.”
worsened storms and sent sea levels rising. Human Rights Watch, in a recent report, said refugees and humanitarian workers alike fear that inadequate storm and flood protection could put those on the island at serious risk.
Nevertheless, the Bangladesh government has moved ahead with resettling Rohingya refugees there. They have built housing for more than 100,000 people, with a series of red-roofed dormitories checkering more than two square miles of the western side of the island.
The number of people trying to escape the island has become a growing problem. About 700 have tried to flee, according to the police, sometimes paying $150 per person to find rides on rickety boats. The police have arrested at least 200 people who attempted to leave.
The police cite safety concerns. In August, a boat carrying 42 people capsized, leaving 14 people dead and 13 missing.
“When we catch them, we send them back to the island,” said Abul Kalam Azad, a police officer in the port city of Chattogram on the southeastern coast of Bangladesh. “They say they are mostly upset for not having any job in Bhasan Char. They are eager to work and earn money.”
Some simply want to see their families again.
Last year, Jannat Ara left her hut in Cox’s Bazar for a dangerous sea journey to take a job in Malaysia that would provide food for eight members of her family. Her boat was intercepted by the Bangladesh navy. She was sent to Bhasan Char, where she lived with three other women.
Alone and desperate to leave, in May she seized the first chance she could get to escape. Her parents paid around $600 for the journey back to Cox’s Bazar, she said. She traveled for hours in pitch dark before arriving back at the camp.
“Only Allah knows how I lived there for a year,” Ms. Ara said. “It is a jail with red roof buildings and surrounded by the sea from all sides. I used to call my parents and cry every day.”
Human rights groups have questioned whether the refugees at Bhasan Char have enough access to food, water, schooling and health care. In an emergency, they say, the island also lacks an ability to evacuate residents.
“The fear is always there,” said Dil Mohammad, a Rohingya refugee who arrived on the island in December. “We are surrounded by the sea.”
But the biggest worry, Mr. Mohammad said, is the education of his children.
“My elder son used to go to the community school when we were in Cox’s Bazar,” he said, “but he is about to forget everything he learned, as there is no option for him to study in Bhasan Char.”
The fear of being stuck on the vulnerable island without any means of getting out has led to protests against Bangladeshi authorities by the refugees. The protests began in May, when U.N. human rights investigators paid a visit. They continued in August after the boat incident, with protesters carrying signs criticizing the Bangladesh government and appealing to the U.N. to get sent back to Cox’s Bazar.
Mr. Islam, the Rohingya refugee who fled in August, was one of the protesters. But he was already thinking about getting out.
He lost three cousins during a killing spree carried out by the Myanmar military in Rakhine state in 2017. Once they arrived in Cox’s Bazar, he and his family built a hillside hut out of sticks and plastic tarpaulins and shared it with another family of three.
During hot summer nights, Mr. Islam said, he and the other man slept outside so that their children and wives could sleep comfortably inside.
The promise of an apartment on Bhasan Char held appeal. In January, while other families were forced to go there, he volunteered. They carried a few blankets and two bags of clothes.
He came to regret the decision. When he arrived back at Cox’s Bazar in August, he saw it with new eyes.
“I felt,” he said, “as if I was walking into my home.”