Vinod Mubayi


Modi, Shah and the rest of the BJP have made no secret of their desire to implement the RSS agenda after winning a second term by a large majority in the national elections last May. The main components of the RSS agenda include: a Uniform Civil Code, construction of a grand temple to Lord Ram at the site of the Babri mosque, destroyed by Hindutva vigilantes in 1992, in the town of Ayodhya, and the abolition of Article 370 of the Indian constitution that conferred a special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir when it acceded to India. Progress is being made on fulfilling this agenda after six years of BJP rule.


With respect to the Uniform Civil Code, BJP passed the law criminalizing triple talaq, the practice by which a Muslim man could divorce his wife by simply uttering the word “talaq” (divorce) thrice to her. Modi shed many crocodile tears over the plight of unfortunate Muslim women affected by this misogynist practice but a decade and a half earlier he had no tears to shed when a visibly pregnant Kausar bi was disemboweled and her fetus tossed on the fire in Ahmedabad in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom  when Modi was Chief Minister of the state. Be that as it may, many rights activists pointed out that it was unnecessary to criminalize the practice to put Muslim men in jail when they could be the sole support of their families. Moreover, the Supreme Court had earlier already made triple talaq illegal in civil law.


The grand Ram Mandir is tied up currently in the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the issue. However, it is pertinent to point out that the Justice Liberhan report that took 17 years to be issued carried a severe indictment of the RSS and the BJP leadership for demolishing a religious structure, the Babri mosque. More to the point, no BJP or RSS leader suffered any civil or criminal liability for this act that drove a stake through the heart of India’s claim to be a secular state.


Article 370 and its concomitant Article 35A was demolished a few weeks ago in a constitutional coup that the leading legal scholar A.G. Noorani, as reported in The Wire of August 28, labeled an act of “constitutional skullduggery.” Noorani asserted that the “J&K reorganization bill and the two resolutions passed by parliament were conceived in malice and executed in deceit. They reduce Kashmir to India’s colony.” These considered views of India’s leading constitutional scholar and foremost authority on Article 370 are of scant interest to Modi, BJP and the RSS. There is an overarching reason that binds together each of the elements of the RSS agenda, whose essence is to make religious minorities and non-caste Dalit Hindus second class citizens. To accomplish that elements of the constitution that protect minority rights have to be done away with and the electoral system has played its role as a handy tool.


Modi won the last election with a little over 36% of those who voted who constituted about 67% of the total electorate. In other words, Modi won a large absolute majority in the Lok Sabha with the votes of about quarter of the electorate. This is the system of democracy we inherited from Britain- the first past the post system, and other parties, notably Congress, had made similar use of it in the past to obtain large majorities of parliamentary seats with a minority of the votes. But BJP under Modi in 2019 is the first party to have used its majority to essentially subvert the constitution; the abolition of 370 is the clearest example. The plan and process of abolishing 370 and the statehood of J&K was obviously put in place well before the election when the state was brought under President’s rule, its legislative assembly was dissolved and rule from Delhi via a pliant governor was established. Still, a plain reading of the constitution shows that changes to 370 could only be done with the approval of the J&K constituent assembly or at the least its legislative assembly and since no such assembly currently exists, the changes announced by home minister Shah with Modi’s enthusiastic approval on August 5, viz. abolition of 370 and 35A, dissolution of J&K statehood, J&K reduced to a union territory with a legislature, and Ladakh and Kargil a union territory without a legislature, were essentially a fraud on the constitution. It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court now dealing with the matter will have the guts to nullify this blatantly illegal maneuver of Modi-Shah and BJP.


BJP had a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha and the constitutional changes adumbrated by the government were expected to pass easily and they did. But BJP did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha and this is where the phenomenon of majoritarianism enters. Those who opposed the abolition of 370 or questioned the regime’s motives were dubbed anti-national or worse, pro-Pakistan or soft on terrorism, etc. No doubt after six years of Modi’s rule the insidious poison of majoritarianism on the issue of religious identity has entered the veins of a significant section of the Indian body politic and it is this section that has most vociferously welcomed the abolition of the special status accorded by Article 370 to J&K, the only Muslim majority state in the country. But one must not forget the approbation provided to this measure, this fraud, there is no other word for it, on the constitution by those who are otherwise Modi’s bitter political opponents. They may be characterized as Modi’s useful fools. Prime among them is Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party. He has voiced his full-throated support for this wrecking of the constitution. What does he hope to gain from this in the forthcoming election where his main opponent is the BJP? Does he want to demonstrate that he is more pro-Hindu and more communal than his opponent to win the votes of Delhi Hindus? Another example is the Congress party duo of Hooda father and son in Haryana who have twittered their tweets in support of the changes in J&K to embellish their status as patriotic Indians. This kind of unprincipled majoritarianism surfing on the wave of emotion sweeping the country that feels the Muslims of Kashmir are being “taught a lesson” is a prerequisite to creeping fascism. Historical analogies are never exact but they do provide useful lessons in what may happen given similar conditions. Nazi demonization of Jews strongly influenced German society’s attitude towards its minorities. The founders of the RSS like Golwalkar were unstinting in their praise for German treatment of Jews; Hindutva’s unabashed demonization of Indian Muslims: jao kabristan ya jao Pakistan (go to Pakistan or go to the graveyard) is also well documented and forms the basis for fascism that is creeping into and can establish a firm foothold in Indian polity.


More than three weeks after its special status was abolished J&K and especially Kashmir Valley remain on total lockdown. Newspapers are not being published and internet and mobile phone networks remain cut-off. Much of the population is under virtual house arrest as streets remain blocked with rolls of concertina wire, checkpoints and military forces patrolling at every corner. Citizens freedom of movement is hence gravely impeded and the lives of those who may have to go to a hospital in an emergency are being put in jeopardy. Laughable claims of normalcy are made by government spokesmen ranging from home minister Shah to lesser functionaries that are exposed as bald-faced lies by international media. In fact, it is useful to recall that well before August 5, government and mainstream media spread lies about terror attacks to force tourists and Amarnath yatris to evacuate Kashmir valley as quickly as possible. Clearly, this was a ploy to contain possible unrest following the August 5 announcements. But, since Modi in his speech of August 8 justified the changes as measures that would vastly benefit the J&K population, changes that he said were being held back by the outdated restrictions imposed by 370, fresh lies needed to be spread to validate his remarks. Meanwhile, at a time when even mainstream parliamentary politicians who happen to belong to opposition parties were not allowed to enter Srinagar city but were turned back from the airport, these lies cannot obscure or obfuscate the humiliating conditions under which Kashmiris have to live their daily lives, conditions as bad as any faced by the Palestinians in their own homeland. In such conditions, explosions may happen at any random moment with consequences that are difficult to predict.


When we couple the situation in Kashmir, where the mainly Muslim residents have been currently stripped of their freedoms and also their dignity as residents of a state, with the situation in Assam, where many Bengali Muslims, called infiltrators and termites by none other than Shah, are being threatened with loss of citizenship and indefinite detention, since Bangladesh has refused to accept any of them, and tie it to the broader statement of Shah to establish foreigners tribunals in every state to determine who is or is not a citizen of India, something more monstrous and more frightening begins to assert itself. This is the inflection point where a creeping fascism can turn into a full-fledged one.

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