0 9 min 1 yr

(First published on December 28th, 2019)

India seems to have woken up. It took a deeply vile regime’s repeated efforts to ostracise and eliminate a huge chunk of India’s population of 1.3 billion to shake things up. Will the current trend hold? We don’t know. But boy, does it give you hope for humanity? You bet.

It is important to first have a quick recap of Narendra Modi and his cabal’s shenanigans so far. It is a great learning opportunity for the rest of the world. So, fasten your seatbelts.

When Modi pulled a surprise victory in 2014, we knew things would not be the same. His campaign’s pathetic attempts to disguise his more malevolent attributes and his deeply disturbing history, from the demolition of the Babri structure to the wholesale bloodbath and later ghettoising of the Muslim population in Gujarat, under the garb of a developmental platform, might have fooled voters too close to the problem but it did not fool those sitting far away. I recall the day when the Indian media first disclosed the results of the exit polls; the involuntary tensing of bodies, the detached near robotic inflection in tones as they told us that Modi would likely be India’s next premier. Through this shock effect, Modi had already conquered two important enemies — Indian democracy and the Indian media.

For the next five years, dissent would be systematically bulldozed and institutions systematically dismantled. But the numbers in the Indian parliament were not enough. So with great manipulation Modi got his heart’s desire this year and thus began an avalanche of outrages.

First came the annexation of Kashmir. Then the verdict on the Ayodhya land where once the Babri Mosque stood. But that was not enough. Modi’s government had established a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and claimed to find some 1.9 million illegal immigrants. To its chagrin, 1.2 million of these turned out to be non-Muslims. Many of them must have voted for Modi’s party. Fear swept many parts of the country. Nibash Sarkar, one of BJP’s mascot in West Bengal during the Lok Sabha elections, committed suicide because of this fear. But Modi’s Home Minister and ruling BJP’s President, Amit Shah, had to make plain that only Muslims could fail this purity test. Those huge Nazi-like concentration camps were not being built for anyone but Muslims and subsequently other minorities after all. A legal cover had to be devised before repeating the exercise at the national level. So, a Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) had to be rushed through parliament granting citizenship to illegal immigrants of religious communities — excluding Muslims — from three neighbouring countries. On the floor of the house, Amit Shah declared that a nationwide NRC would soon be introduced. After this cover when the NRC came to the only community left without a cover, Muslims could be asked to produce documents to prove they were citizens of India for generations. If they could not, they would be declared illegal aliens and locked up. Since a majority of Indian Muslims is very poor, such documents were unlikely to be available.

Interestingly since 2014, cognitive dissonance has pervaded Indian consciousness including that of Muslims. But fortunately, this episode was different. Indian seculars, Muslims, and other minorities saw it for what it was — an attempt to repeat Nazi methods in India. Muslims were the proverbial low hanging fruit. Then the turn of other minorities would come. In Assam and North East, where illegal immigrants are accused of changing local culture and society, the backlash had a different motivation. But as the protest grew Modi shot his mouth. The protestors could be identified by looking at their clothes. A clear dog whistle to his supporters to start attacking Muslims. To make this point, Aligarh Muslim University and Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University were raided. As the video footage of brutal methods used in these raids spread on social media, students across India already wary of Hindutva incursions into safe spaces that universities are supposed to be, as symptomised by the unending shoddy treatment of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, took to the streets. Since then Modi and his cabal have used every trick in the book, from arrests, torture, internet ban and dissembling, to little avail.

But a look at the initial tactics used by various authorities is instructive and illuminating to underscore their intellectual range. Ajay Bisht, the petty thug and criminal who prefers to call himself Yogi Adityanath and is now BJP’s Chief Minister of the most populous Uttar Pradesh state, used police force to target Muslim lives and properties in the state. Indian television media broadly speaking has constantly tried to blame protestors for violence. The leadership of major opposition parties suddenly disappeared from the crowds. Modi’s domesticated Army Chief Bipin Rawat once again spoke about Pakistan to divert attention from the domestic mess and then resorted to unprovoked shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. The Indian Supreme Court refused to hear cases. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ruling BJP’s Nazi-inspired paramilitary parent, carried out a mammoth baton-wielding rally just like Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (SA — Storm Troopers) used to do in the early years of Nazi Germany. All one-trick ponies, all well-adjusted in their pre-programmed roles. Shows you the intellectual incapacity and an abysmal dearth of creativity. And that is the biggest problem right there.

If Indian society finally gives up the struggle, it would be the beginning of an unending journey of pain and suffering. The lack of imagination characteristic of Modi’s minions obscures the fact that for a nation as big and diverse as India imitating Nazi Germany is impossible. Germany’s total population at the height of Nazi rule, in the age without internet or smartphones, was around 90 million. We have already seen how the Muslim population alone in India is near 200 million. When you try to get them all, the sheer number and nature of mixed integrated communities by virtue of inter-marriages and regional culture throughout the country means there will be civil war leading to balkanisation. And remember we are still talking about just one minority community. There are too many and the BJP-RSS plan is pretty straight forward. Indian institutions can stop all of this in just a few days. Remember despite their cowardly, corrupt and pliant leadership, most institutions remain secular to the core. But so far, we have not seen any evidence to validate the belief that they will act. If not, then the protestors will have to prove more resilient and regroup in a larger number after every brutal crackdown. No one can do away with an entire political or ideological group. A return to pre-2014 normal might suffice for now. There will always be a fear of bodily harm. But some ideas are infinitely larger than our mortal shells. The Indian diaspora will have to shun their complacency and stand on the right side of history. Otherwise, the beautiful idea they market abroad will be gone forever.

I have repeatedly stated that I am a friend of India. What good is a friend if he cannot tell the honest truth?

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2019.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.