Hindu Extremists
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in 2019. Anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising in India under Modi, a Hindu nationalist.Atul Loke / Getty Images

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India’s Supreme Court says it will investigate after complaints that Hindu nationalist leaders called on followers to take up arms against the country’s Muslim minority.

The notice of investigation was issued last week to the northern state of Uttarakhand, where a Hindu nationalist conference in the city of Haridwar was attended by hundreds of right-wing activists.

“We must prepare to either kill or be killed,” one of the speakers, Swami Prabodhananda Giri, said at the three-day conference, which was held Dec. 17-19.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising in Hindu-majority India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist. But recent calls to violence are shocking in their extremity, experts say, going beyond hate speech to advocate ethnic cleansing.

A petition filed to the court said the speeches in Haridwar and at a similar event in the Delhi territory, which includes the nation’s capital, “amount to an open call for murder of an entire community.”

The speeches “pose a grave threat not just to the unity and integrity of our country but also endanger the lives of millions of Muslim citizens,” it said, adding that organizers had announced further events.

No arrests have been made in either Haridwar or Delhi, and the Modi government has not commented. The official silence, critics say, could be interpreted by Hindu nationalists as a tacit endorsement.

“To give speeches against us and to say you want to drive out an entire population based on their religion, I don’t understand how they can ignore this,” said Maulana Mahmood Madani, president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, which describes itself as India’s largest Muslim organization.

Since Modi consolidated power with his re-election in 2014, Muslims in India — who make up about 14 percent of the population, have faced increased violence, discrimination and government persecution. Attacks from Hindu nationalists have ranged from property destruction and the disruption of religious services to deadly lynch mobs.

People with ties to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party were at both events. The Delhi event was organized Dec. 19 by Hindu Yuva Vahini, a right-wing youth group founded by Yogi Adityanath, a BJP member and close Modi ally who is the chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh. In Haridwar, attendees included Ashwini Upadhyay, a former Delhi BJP spokesperson and current party member.

The speeches at the Hindu nationalist events have been severely criticized, including by members of the opposition Indian National Congress.

“Hindutva always spreads hate and violence,” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, said on Twitter.

Giri, who made the comments about Myanmar, directed a request for comment to Swami Anand Swaroop, founder of Hindu nationalist group Kali Sena and an organizer of the Haridwar event. In a phone interview, Swaroop defended the event, saying its purpose was to “save Hindus from Islam.”

“We don’t have any problem with Muslims. We have a problem with the Islamic jihadis who are killing us,” he said.

Stanton said Swaroop’s comment “goes against what was actually said in the meeting.”

In a speech at the event referring to Muslims, Maa, one of the activists later summoned in Haridwar, said, “If even 100 of us become soldiers and we kill 20 lakh of these people, then we are victors and we are prepared to go to jail.” Twenty lakh, an Indian unit of measurement that equals 100,000, is 2 million people.

“If that isn’t an incitement to genocide, then I don’t know what is,” Stanton said.

This story first appeared on nbcnews.com