Vinod Mubayi


On the eve of its 73rd birthday, India offers glimpses of a society repudiating the promise made at its birth of a secular state with freedom and liberty for all that respected the ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity of the country. While the formal trappings of constitutional democracy exist, majoritarian politics based largely on a nakedly political use of religious identity is hollowing out the core elements of democracy; the pace has accelerated after the April-May 2019 election led to a second term for Modi and the BJP with an enhanced majority in Parliament.


Citizenship and Minorities


The most egregious, if not insidious, legislative bill proposed by BJP is the Citizenship Amendment Bill that in the eyes of Hindutva cheerleaders is aimed at making non-Hindus, principally Muslims, non-citizens of India. The exercise began some years ago in Assam where the Assamese Hindu elite wished to declare Assamese Muslims of Bengali origin as intruders from Bangladesh and thus non-citizens. While this exercise is only taking place currently in Assam, the BJP central government is trying to legislate something much more frightening by trying to extend this exercise to the whole country. In Assam, this project is known as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) where the government is attempting to determine which residents of Assam were citizens prior to a cut-off date in 1971. Already this process has caused enormous turmoil in Assam when 4 million residents were left out of the draft NRC. The extent of this turmoil can be gauged in the light of newspaper reports that residents are refusing to leave their homes in monsoon-flooded areas lest they lose their precious papers that could cause them to be left out of the final NRC. Last week, the home minister Amit Shah reiterated the government’s resolve to make the NRC a nationwide project. As reported in The Wire of July 26 he said “Currently, the NRC is a part of Assam Accord. The Centre – as per its election manifesto – is dedicated to weaning out illegal immigrants from every inch of this country. We will make sure that all such immigrants are deported as per international law.” According to the report in The Wire, “Shah is all set to fulfil his promise of driving out “ghuspethiyas” – or infiltrators, the word he uses for migrants – who he thinks are nothing more than “termites.” How will the government determine who is an infiltrator and from where? How many rural, landless, marginalized Indians can produce birth certificates or all the other documents demanded by the bureaucracy carrying out the project? Where will the putative non-citizens go? Will they be put in detention camps as is happening to some extent already in Assam? Under a BJP government it may be safely assumed that the infiltrator exercise will be mainly if not solely directed at Muslims. Considering that India’s Muslim majority neighbors, Pakistan and Bangladesh have categorically refused to accept any Muslims from India what will the BJP regime do to some fraction of India’s 200 million Muslims it may declare as non-citizens? The possibilities are too frightening if not downright nightmarish to contemplate.


Lynch Mob Nation


By now, even in the mainstream Western press, India under BJP has been accorded the less than flattering title of lynch mob nation. Random Muslim men are being attacked by groups of Hindutva gangsters, forced to say “Jai Shri Ram” and are then bludgeoned to death. Worse, the attackers are not afraid to make a video of the event on their cellphone that then goes viral. The police either do nothing or make a perfunctory arrest followed by the murderers getting bail. Modi remains silent so does the new Home Minister as well as the state’s chief minister. The tumult in the press subsides after a few days until the next lynching. A couple of years ago, when dairy farmers who happened to be Muslim were killed while transporting cows, the lynching was “justified” mainly on the grounds of preventing cow slaughter, i.e. murder of other human beings was regrettable but basically okay if it was in accord with Hindutva ideology. In BJP ruled states this has been the tacit position of the state governments and the criminal justice system; the goondas who were, if at all, put in jail for a few days and then promptly released, were in some cases publicly acclaimed by BJP leaders. But demons once let loose no longer need a reason to perform their vile acts. Thus, people are being lynched not because they plan to eat beef but simply because like Tabrez Ansari they are perceived to be Muslim. And Modi is silent.


Hindus and Terrorism


Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament that Hindus cannot be terrorists is a gratuitous insult to the memory of the martyrs of the bombing of the Samjhauta Express in 2007, most of whom were Pakistani citizens, and the victims of the subsequent terror bombings of Ajmer sharif, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, and the masjid in Malegaon. In a long interview with The Wire news channel, Vikash Narayan Rai a senior police officer who headed the Special Investigation Team constituted after the Samjhauta bombing stated that the SIT conclusively established the Hindutva links of the terror bombings to a cell headed by an RSS figure Sunil Joshi who was later mysteriously killed. His terrorist associates included Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, now a BJP MP elected from Bhopal, Col. Purohit, Aseemanand, and others, some of whom are absconding. It is a grave blot on the face of India’s criminal justice system, including various central police agencies such as CBI and NIA as well as police at state and local levels and the judiciary as well, that all these criminals have been let out on bail or acquitted. This outcome was prophesied four years ago when a senior prosecutor, Rohini Salian, revealed that after the Modi regime came to power an NIA official asked her to go easy on those being tried in these terror cases. That was a message to her that the Modi regime was not interested in pursuing these terrorists.


One Party State


Through its incessant sloganeering of a Congress-mukt Bharat, the BJP has made no secret of its effort to drive the largest opposition party in Parliament into oblivion. After the national elections were concluded, the BJP left no stone unturned in bribing legislators in states like Karnataka where Congress rules (or ruled) in a coalition to defect from the party on whose ticket they were elected, thus making a mockery of the anti-defection law. In their anxiety to get on the gravy train, we have the unedifying spectacle of unprincipled legislators of the Karnataka state assembly elected on the Congress or Janata Dal ticket hiding in hotels in Mumbai flush with BJP cash to ensure that their government would be defeated on the floor of the state assembly. In Goa, Congress was the largest single party after elections last year but was prevented from forming the state government by the machinations of the BJP-appointed governor who instead let a coalition led by BJP come to power in the state. After the national elections in May, two-thirds of the elected Congress legislators in the Goa assembly were lured into the arms of the BJP no doubt by promises of wealth or office or both. One could expect similar shenanigans to be repeated in other Congress ruled states like Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh on the lines of the defections being assiduously promoted in West Bengal.


Intimidation of Opposition


Beyond opposition political parties, the BJP government is sparing no efforts in harassing all those groups and figures, including lawyers, academics, human rights activists, and NGOs, it deems as opposition to its rule or even its ideas and slogans. Senior Supreme Court lawyers, Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, who head the Lawyers Collective, which defends those oppressed by the state, have had their homes ransacked all on the basis of alleged violation of an obscure provision of the Foreign Currency Regulation Act that applies to organizations receiving foreign contributions. Academics who write or speak against the government are deemed anti-national, harassed by BJP trolls online, and are officially charged with sedition, a British colonial-era law. Harassment and intimidation are especially virulent against students pursuing higher education who happen to be Dalits. Furthermore, human rights activists and leftist political figures fighting for the rights of the oppressed are dubbed urban Naxals and face arrest under fabricated charges and atrocious laws that put them in jail for years without even any trial. The passage of legislation downgrading the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows clearly that the government is completely against transparency in governance. This applies as much to the curious case of Modi’s college degree as well as the functioning of the Election Commission and the huge favoritism it showed to the ruling party in the recent elections.


These trends do not augur well for the survival of a genuine democracy in the country. The very fact that someone like Sadhvi Thakur, a terrorist who celebrates the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi as a true patriot, could be elected to Parliament shows what years of Hindutva brainwashing can do to people’s mentality.

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