Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


A perceptive columnist recently wrote that national leaders govern their people by two major methods; the first one promises affection and inclusion, the second fear and intimidation. As the rhetoric of “sabka vikas” (development for all) fades into oblivion, several recent events suggest that Modi’s India is quickly becoming The Republic of Fear, an appellation once coined to describe Saddam Hussain’s Iraq three decades ago.


The seemingly random lynching of Muslims by cow protection mobs along with the indifference or complicity of police in these crimes as well as the failure of the BJP leaders to condemn them is now giving way to systematic physical attacks on prominent individuals and academics who have dared to voice their opposition to BJP or its leaders. How consciously this effort is directed by the BJP’s political leadership or the RSS and its numerous offshoots is a matter of opinion but there is no mistaking the ferocity with which the Hindutva trolls are attacking those they regard as the opposition.


The well-known social activist and religious Hindu leader Swami Agnivesh was beaten up last month by BJP goons in Chattisgarh where he had gone to attend a function of a tribal community. Agnivesh, who belongs to the Arya Samaj sect, is famous for his longstanding effort to end bonded labor slavery in India for which he received the Right to Livelihood Award, often considered an alternative Nobel prize, in 2004. For his consistent defense of the rights of the most marginalized tribal and Dalit communities, he has been repeatedly vilified, called a “deshdrohi” (traitor) and worse, and now physically assaulted by the votaries of Hindutva. Last week he was assaulted by BJP goons again in the heart of New Delhi when he had gone to pay his respects to the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose body was displayed for public mourning prior to the funeral. A day after Vajpayee’s demise, Sanjeev Kumar, a professor of sociology in Mahatma Gandhi Central University in Motihari, Bihar was assaulted because he had posted comments on Facebook critical of Vajpayee’s policies. The Vice-Chancellor of the University and the local head of BJP’s IT cell are both alleged to be complicit in this assault, which they stated was an expression of “public sentiment.”


More shocking still is the arrest and one-year judicial custody sentence of a municipal corporator in Aurangabad, Syed Mateen Rashid belonging to the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad Muslimeen party, for the “crime” of opposing a resolution condoling Vajpayee’s death in the corporation. Maharashtra is ruled by the BJP and Mateen was arrested by the police under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act, 1981. Mob violence, condoled and occasionally aided by the police who refuse to arrest law breakers on the orders of their political masters, is bad enough but state action to arrest persons expressing their own opinions on the floor of a legislative body is much more dangerous. It tells the people openly: “if you dare to criticize us, you will face the consequences.”


BJP’s tactics of intimidation are fueled by its fear of being dislodged from power in states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that are due to have elections fairly soon and perhaps even at the national level next year. The boasts of superior economic management that brought it electoral victory in 2014 have mostly turned out to be “jumlas.” Speaking on Independence Day 15th August from the ramparts of Delhi’s iconic Red Fort, a national monument soon to be outsourced to the Dalmias, Modi was confronted by one disconcerting fact: in the 70+ years since independence it was the first time that the value of the Indian rupee had slid to a rate of more than 70 rupees to the US dollar showing the weak state of the economy. His speech was a compendium of bluster and promises, aka jumlas, of glorious days to come but unconvincing. Even official statistical agencies have recently shown that economic growth under the UPA from 2004 to 2014 was higher than under NDA from 2014-2018. It is not surprising that intimidation and fear have emerged as the potential weapons in BJP’s arsenal to maintain its rule and prepare the country for a Hindu Rashtra in future. The culmination of these nefarious trends is seen clearly in Assam where the so-called National Register of Citizens has resulted in 4 million people facing an uncertain future, their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy as they prepare to confront a bureaucratic nightmare that will deny them citizenship based on criteria and documents that few Indians, no matter where they live in the country, could hope to fulfill or provide. BJP’s hope is to turn Assamese chauvinism into a tool for making local Muslims (labeled as Bangladeshis) into second class residents, a move that will further polarize communities on religious grounds and project BJP as the “protector” of the Hindu majority.


Kerala Floods


Insaf Bulletin voices its grief at the tremendous human suffering borne by the residents of Kerala in the unprecedented rainfall and floods that engulphed the state. At the same time, we proclaim our solidarity with the efforts of all Keralites of all faiths to repair the damage and rebuild their lives. The Modi regime’s response to this tragedy has been widely described as “parsimonious.” Kerala is ruled by the Left Front government that has estimated losses to the state from the natural disaster in excess of Rs 20,000 crores (two hundred billion rupees) and demanded immediate relief of 2000 crores from the Central government which, in turn, offered only 760 crores, out of which just 80 crores have been disbursed so far. The Wire newspaper reports that right-wing Hindutva groups on social media have been urging people not to donate to the “beef-eating state.” Meanwhile, a significant Centre-State controversy has erupted over the UAE’s generous offer of immediate assistance of 700 crores that the state wants to accept but which the Centre has so far rejected.


Kuldip Nayar


Insaf Bulletin offers its condolences on the passing of Kuldip Nayar. Nayar was a veteran journalist, peace activist, and string advocate for peace in South Asia. Rest in Peace, Sir.

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