By Durdana Najam
Since the beginning of the election season in India, PM Narendra Modi has been in a frantic mood, blaming everyone, other than himself and his party, for terrorism, which, in his imagination, has made India vulnerable to attacks. He has couched the current BJP’s election theme in fear: fear that India can be destroyed by the forces that had perpetrated partition in 1947; fear that if not BJP, than no other party could save the country from falling in the hands of terrorists, and the fear that Muslims are conspiring to dilute the image of “Hindu India”. The Pulwama attack, the retaliatory attack on Pakistan and the consistent threats of using nuclear weapons have made the political environment of India, as well as of the region, toxic.
Suddenly, there is an upsurge of terror attacks in Pakistan, along with the recent attack in Sri Lanka. The pattern is to divide the region on communal lines. Pakistan’s Hazara Community was attacked in mid-April after a hiatus. Residing in Balochistan, the Hazaras have been in the crosshairs of terror-inspiring non-state actors because of their Shia learning. The Baloch-Punjabi rift was also laid bare when the travelers of a bus going from Karachi to Gwadar were identified for their ethnic leaning, resulting in “Punjabis” being shot down. This fear, churned out of the terror machinery involving Muslims, has also bloodied the region beyond South Asia, as similar incidents are taking place in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Not to forget the warning given by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of Israel’s plan to launch this summer, a surprise war on Lebanon.
What a perfect shield terrorism has become for power-seeking nations and ultra-nationalist leaders; be it Modi or US President Trump. To legitimize their use of war machinery, the US, Israel and India have projected ‘fear’, emanating from terrorism, to the next level. The US, because of its global influence, has been able to invade countries much beyond its immediate reaches, such as Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. Places where it could not directly intervene, it supported warmongers through motivational sustenance and supply of lethal weapons. Similarly, India has raised its ante against so-called terrorism by keeping hot and aggressive the Line of Control that separates Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistan’s side of Kashmir. And then there have been attacks in Kashmir that were pinned on Pakistan without any proof. Israel, on the other hand, has almost completed orbiting Palestine with first shrinking Gaza into a cesspool of human misery and now getting the legal rights to own the Golan Heights. With this new development, the theory of two nations within Palestine has come to an end.
Modi’s India is about fear and so was Gujrat, when he was its Chief Minister between 2002 and 2014. During his reign, a heinous campaign combining murder, rape and arson attacks was unleashed on Muslims and Modi’s involvement in the crime was so palpable that his entry was banned in the US and a few western countries. Unscathed by the accusations, he ventured to become India’s prime minister in 2014 on the slogan of “clean and shining India”, anchored to the idea of reducing poverty that has sunk half of India’s population into a living misery.
Modi is part of a scheme that wants India purged of ‘others’ to complete the Hindutva project, which makes it mandatory to see every other religion suspiciously, especially Islam. Probably the 1,000 years long domination of Muslims in India has negatively influenced the Hindu mindset. The term “Hindutva” was thought up in 1923 by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar with a concept to develop the ideology of “one nation, one culture, and one country,” which necessarily casts minorities as the “other.”
The scheme that defines Modi is called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from which the Bharatiya Janta Party was born. While nationalism forms the core of the Sangh’s ideology, its dislike for secularism and minorities has been its driving force that propelled the idea of bringing India to its original form, where Hindus from the upper caste reigned. The party was founded in 1925 by an Indian Congress defector Keshan Balram Hedgewar. He was opposed to his party’s “undue pampering of the Muslims.”
Now with Modi at the helm of affairs, the RSS wants to see at least three of its long-awaited dreams come true. One, the abolition of Article 370, which gives Kashmir the right to exist as quasi-independent state within India. Two, the implementation of the Unified Civil Code, to eliminate religious prerogative the legal statutes provided to the minorities. Three, to build Ram Mandir (Temple) on the sight of Babri Mosque, lending a psychological blow to the Muslims’ sense of ownership towards India.
Modi has been soft on anti-Muslim drive exhibited in the killing of people eating beef. According to the data compiled by the Human Rights Watch, BJP’s vigilante campaign against beef consumption and those linked to it had seen between May 2015 and December 2018 at least 44 people – 36 of them Muslims – killed across 12 Indian states.
Additionally, Modi has particularly focused on Pakistan during his five year term to perhaps juxtapose RSS’s revulsion for the Muslims with that of the creation of Pakistan, which ripped the Bharat Mata or Mother India apart.
Under the garb of this nationalist-cum-Hindutva dust lies a huge swath of territory where people are treated in the most inhumane way because of their caste. According to the Crime India Reports (2006-2016) prepared by the National Crime Record Bureau, the Scheduled Castes in India are among the worst sufferers of crime and injustice. Since 2009, registered crime against the Scheduled Castes have risen by 40 per cent. Moreover, the nature of atrocities being reported points toward a trend of targeted violence against entire communities, which is likely to continue if Modi stays in power.
Reports from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have indicated discriminatory behaviour towards Dalits. This behaviour includes extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women. Most of the crimes against Dalits go unnoticed and unpunished. According to the Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2018 prepared by the United States Department of State: On April 18, as many as 28 Dalit men from the Churu village in Rajasthan were subjected to clinical trials without their consent for Glenmark Pharmaceuticals. According to media reports, the men were transported to Jaipur’s Malpani Hospital with the promise of work at a medical camp but were locked in the hospital basement upon arrival and subjected to the trials. On June 21, Madhya Pradesh police arrested four upper caste men for burning alive 55-year old Dalit farmer Kishorilal Jatav after he opposed their illegal tilling his land in a village in Bhopal district.
Dalit students in India are required to present caste certification to get admission in schools. They are not allowed to attend morning prayers and are forced to take back seats in the classroom. Dalit children are also often denied school meals. In many cases, teachers have been found not to check the homework of the Dalit children, who are also asked to sit apart from children of upper caste families. Though manual scavenging – removing animal and human waste – by Dalits had been legally prohibited, in practice the activity continues.
Short of human development and secular credentials, Modi’s fear infested election campaign underscored with the claim to wage a nuclear war against Pakistan is a reflection of an India which rather than shinning is under the weather.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore (firstname.lastname@example.org)