I would like to take this opportunity to share with you what’s been going on in India (as concisely as possible). Since early August, the ruling party of India, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has been rampantly spreading and enforcing their message of Hindu nationalism and Hindu extremism, also called Hindutva by many scholars and historians. It’s an ideology that dates back to 1923 and has been described by many scholars as fascist. What the BJP has been doing since it came to power in India is nothing short of ethnic cleansing and spreading misinformation and lies about minority groups such as Indian Muslims, tribal groups, and other backward classes. However, things have gotten worse this year, since Narendra Modi was elected for a second term. He has taken an almost authoritarian role in Indian politics and has started enacting controversial laws that are taking India in the wrong direction. Here’s a look at what he’s been doing:
Kashmir has been a point of conflict between India and Pakistan since the Partition of India. India, Pakistan, and even China lay claim to parts of Kashmir. However, things took a turn for the worse in early August for Kashmiris, when the government redacted Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The disputed state of Kashmir was no longer allowed to have a special status, and has since been divided into two Union Territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. This sparked much controversy because the current government – the BJP – is considered to be extremely anti-Muslim and has a policy of Hindu nationalism. Incidentally, J&K is a Muslim-majority state and this Article was not only scrapped without permission or consent of Kashmir’s own Constituent Assembly, but also passed overnight and without much deliberation. J&K has since been under heavy military occupation and internet and cellular services have been cut off. Many Kashmiri leaders, including Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, have been placed under house arrest. There has been a severe breach of human rights so much so that many people are now calling Kashmir ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir’ which, by all means, is true. It’s been over 140 days since Kashmir has been in lockdown. The United Nations has condemned India’s actions and Pakistani PM Imran Khan has issued a warning to India and announced that this might lead to a war between the two nations. It must be noted, however, that this warmongering attitude is absolutely counter-intuitive and does not help matters.
Further turmoil: Citizenship Amendment Bill and Act
Things only got worse on the 11th of December when the Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act which bestows citizenship upon Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains, and Christians fleeing religious persecution from 3 countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. This systematically leaves all Muslims out – again, in accordance with the party’s strong Hindu nationalist policies. In my opinion, this is obviously discriminatory and goes against the Indian Constitution which claims to be secular, and holds every Indian as an equal no matter what religion they choose to be. The logic the party is trying to use is that since the aforementioned countries are Muslim-majority countries, Muslims themselves cannot face any religious persecution within them. Without going into much detail, I want to make a point that a lot of Muslim minority groups such as Hazaras, Ahmadiyyas, and Shi’as have been fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. At the same time, Myanmar has committed gross atrocities against the Rohingyas and they have had to seek refuge in Bangladesh – a country absolutely unequipped to deal with mass migration. Ever since this Act was passed, protests have erupted all over the country (and around the world). However, the Indian government has called for a massive crackdown on these peaceful and student-led protests. One such protest led to Delhi Police attacking Jamia Milia University (in the capital, New Delhi) and Aligarh University (north of India). Police entered campuses illegally, detained peaceful protesters, shot expired tear gas into libraries and beat up students in a brutal lathi charge. A lot of casualties have since been reported and in order to curb the protests, the government suspended cellular, WiFi, and data services in affected areas. They have imposed Section 144 in a lot of major cities including Bengaluru, which in short, prohibits protests from taking place. The government has also started spreading fake propaganda videos and has started systematically attacking Muslims in their homes and other public spaces – especially in BJP-ruled states. This is especially true in Uttar Pradesh – a state that is infamously known for its CM Yogi Adityanath (who is publicly anti-Muslim) and its anti-Muslim violence (not limited to cow-related lynchings).
National Register of Citizens in Assam
At the same time, the government introduced the National Register of Citizens of India in the north-eastern state of Assam which makes it imperative for everyone (no matter their religion) to prove that they and their families are citizens of India. They also force them to produce documents that are possibly either lost or irretrievable from over 50 years ago to prove that the reason they immigrated to India was that they were facing religious persecution in their home country and that they were a religious minority there. This is also problematic because poor people don’t have any documentation, and Assam has always been a notorious region for all sorts of natural calamities – this means a lot of paperwork is lost or people just haven’t been bothered to keep a track of any of it. In a country where ministers can’t even produce proof of their Higher Education degrees, officials are expecting poor and marginalised groups to produce proof of citizenship. Not to mention the horrible bureaucracy of India that doesn’t work without bribes or connections with higher-up politicians. The NRC and CAA are very tightly linked (despite Amit Shah, the Home Minister and national leader of BJP saying it’s not). For example, say, a Hindu person had no proof of citizenship – nothing to prove that they or their parents had come to India because they were fleeing minority persecution, they can still get citizenship because the CAA protects them. However, say, that a Muslim person has everything to prove how they are a citizen of India, but if they can’t prove their parents or ancestors were citizens of India, they will get deported because of the CAA. It is unfair and reduces every single person to their religion. Ever since the NRC was introduced, protests have erupted in Assam and the government used the same strategy as it did in the rest of the country – imposed curfews, blocked cellular data, calls, SMS and WiFi, and claimed lives of innocent people.
It is my firm belief that as sensible people who have knowledge of history, we can’t let fascism infect our lives again. We must stand up to this brutal regime and make sure our brothers and sisters remain safe. The only way to do this is raise our voices against the oppressive regimes targeting minorities all over the world – be it Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Xi Jinping of China, or Narendra Modi of India. We must stand tall against these regimes before we let them change the narrative of our future.