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December 23, 2019

End of India

Opinion

December 23, 2019

The world’s largest democracy is in turmoil, caused by a controversial citizenship law passed by the BJP’s majoritarian government.

New Delhi, the capital city home to over 20 million people is facing a metro shut down which has made the lives of millions of commuters hell. Cellphone coverage has also been impacted and many people are up in arms against the central government’s discriminatory law which targets India’s large Muslim minority, numbering 200 million, 14.2 percent of total population.

What is intriguing is that there were no waves of Muslim migrants coming to India’s from neighbouring Muslim countries. So what really pushed the Modi government to come up with the citizenship law which most people view as unethical and illogical, and which runs against the pluralistic secular Indian constitution?

The Modi government has created this false notion that India is surrounded by Muslim countries, a kind of siege mentality that the Jewish state of Israel has used to justify its unending incursions into its bordering countries, all of them Muslim. By no means is India under threat by any of the Muslim countries; they’re weaker in any sense — from military power to economic strength. On the contrary, countries like Pakistan and Nepal fear the rising Indian military might and economic power. So the fear-mongering on the part of the Modi government is unfounded.

With the discriminatory citizenship law, the BJP government has revived communal politics and is now adding salt on self-inflicted wound by resorting to the colonial law of Section 144 by banning protests and public gatherings, which people in almost all major cities are defying; thousands have been imprisoned across the country.

India has seen many low points in its history since Independence, and the current ongoing turmoil is definitely one of its lowest, badly damaging India’s global standing and image as a stable functional democracy. Had the BJP been a true democratic party, it would have given several thoughts before enacting this law.

Modi proved all those academics wrong who made us believe that right-wing hawks use extremist narrative as a tool to come in power, and once they come in government they behave as moderates. For them, the BJP’s first two governments served as an example, like former prime minister late Vajpayee’s diplomatic overtures towards Pakistan. Perhaps, this is what our Prime Minister Imran Khan was thinking when he said that a Modi government would be good for dialogue. That is not the case anymore; the BJP election manifesto has becoming a new order in Modi’s India.

In retrospective, India has never gained from communal political divide; a century ago when Gandhi was encouraging the Johar brothers to form the Khilafat Movement, Jinnah was the sane voice urging Gandhi ‘not to bring religion into politics’. Jinnah proved prophetically correct, and Gandhi became victim of what he encouraged in the beginning as the base of his freedom fight.

Unlike Pakistan, India has a vibrant civil society and many independent political parties with decades of political experience. So how could they let this go and treat it as a new normal? People in Kashmir are being suffocated in a garrison. But the thousands that are locked up inside their homes won’t sit silent. Anger, frustration and a feeling of injustice will ignite a resistance movement. Is this what Modi wants for India?

It’s not rocket science to understand that rising economies need long periods of political stability and peace inside the country so that investors and foreign professionals can visit and explore opportunities for trade and investment. By its recent actions, India is depriving itself of the promised economic rise.

Hindutva’s communal political strategy may add a few more years to the BJP’s political power, but the division it has created within society will have long-term effects. Conflicts in democratic societies are resolved in parliament; the BJP is not for conflict resolution but for the imposition of its fanatical agenda. No recourse left for the discontented public, their response is confined to more oppression, internet blackouts and blocks on means of communications, which historically has been a typical response of dictatorial regimes.

One way to stop widespread protest could have been a court stay by the Supreme Court of India as it has already accepted to hear the petition, but has denied a stay order to the petitioner. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the petition next month, without much hope of repealing the law.

Khushwant Singh (1914-2015) witnessing the violence of Partition wrote: “I thought the nation was coming to an end”. Later, following the Gujarat violence in 2002, Singh wrote ‘End of India’. And here we are again, after the annexation of Kashmir, here’s yet another big blow to India’s secular and pluralistic character.

Besides the Indian Supreme Court’s take on the issue, a far more serious challenge is for secular political forces and civil society. Will they accept it as a new normal in India — discrimination without logic? Is this Nehru’s discovery of India? Or is it Khushwant’s worst fears of ‘End of India’?

Email: [email protected]

Twitter @mushrajpar