India's Hindu extremists are calling for genocide against Muslims. Why is little being done to stop them?
Updated 0253 GMT (1053 HKT) January 15, 2022
Delhi, India (CNN)At a conference in India last month, a Hindu extremist dressed head-to-toe in the religion's holy color, saffron, called on her supporters to kill Muslims and "protect" the country.
"If 100 of us become soldiers and are prepared to kill 2 million (Muslims), then we will win ... protect India, and make it a Hindu nation," said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a senior member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha political party, according to a video of the event.
Her words and calls for violence from other religious leaders were met with a roar of applause from the large audience, a video from the three-day conference in the northern Indian city of Haridwar shows.
But across India, people were outraged. Nearly a month on, many are still furious at the lack of government response or arrests over the comments, which they say highlights a worsening climate for the country's Muslims.
After mounting pressure, India's top court intervened on Wednesday, asking for a response from state and federal authorities within 10 days.
Pandey and several others are being investigated by local police for insulting religious beliefs, a charge that carries a possible sentence of up to four years in prison, Haridwar police officials told CNN.
Neither Pandey, nor the others, have publicly commented about the outcry or investigations.
Late Thursday, police in Uttarakhand state, where Haridwar is located, arrested a man who spoke at the event, senior Haridwar Police official Shekhar Suyal told CNN. It is unclear what the man said at the event. Police have not formally charged anyone with any crime.
CNN has contacted India's Ministry of Minority Affairs, the Hindu Mahasabha and Pandey, but has not received a response.
Analysts say the Hindu Mahasabha is at the tip of a broader trend in India which has seen an alarming rise in support for extremist Hindu nationalist groups since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power nearly eight years ago.
Although these groups aren't directly associated with Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his own Hindu nationalist agenda, and the lack of repercussions for these groups' previous vitriolic comments, has given them tacit support, making them even more brazen, analysts say.
Analysts fear this rise poses a serious danger to minorities, especially Muslims -- and worry it may only get worse as several Indian states head to the polls in the coming months.
"What makes the Hindu Mahasabha dangerous," said Gilles Verniers, an assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University near India's capital, New Delhi, "is that they have been waiting for a moment like this in decades."
Rise of the right-wing Hindu group
Founded in 1907 during British rule at a time of growing conflict between Muslims and Hindus in the country, the Hindu Mahasabha is one of India's oldest political organizations.
The group didn't support British rule, but it didn't back India's freedom movement either, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was particularly tolerant of Muslims. Even now, some members of the group worship his assassin, Nathuram Godse.