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As India slides into majoritarianism


March 13, 2020

In the wake of the international fallout over deadly anti-Muslim riots in Delhi– following protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act–- the UN rights chief has moved the Indian Supreme Court against the controversial legislation passed by the Indian parliament.

Michelle Bachelet informed the Indian government about its application to be a third party in a petition brought by a former civil servant. This development came in the wake of communal riots in Delhi in which more than 50 Muslims were killed. Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif in a tweet also condemned what he called a wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims.

Reacting to these developments, the spokesman of the Indian foreign ministry, Raveesh Kumar, said: “The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty”.

The Iranian ambassador to India was also called to the Indian foreign office and according to the spokesman a strong protest was lodged against the unwarranted remarks which according to him were not acceptable. This however did not deter the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, from urging India to confront extremist Hindus and stop the massacre of Muslims. He said “The hearts of Muslims all over the world are grieving over the massacre of Muslims in India”

The foregoing episodes prove beyond an iota of doubt that India has failed to sell the narrative that the issue is an ‘internal affair’. It is an issue of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which India is also a signatory. So any issue relating to the abuse of human rights is a matter of universal concern and cannot be dismissed as an internal affair of the country indulging in their blatant violation, what to speak of the massacre of minorities.

Pakistan, particularly Prime Minister Imran Khan has been warning the world about the capture of the Indian polity by the followers of an extremist and supremacist ideology of Hindutva and the likely consequences within and outside India. He was particularly right on the money in saying that through the promulgation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens, India was engaged in systematic efforts to discriminate against, marginalize and disenfranchise minorities, particularly the Muslims. The violence and targeted killing of Muslims, desecration of their places of worship is not only a matter of grave concern for the Muslim world, but also for the international community.

The situation created by the BJP government in India is not restricted to condemnation by the international community but even within India there is great resentment over the path being pursued by it. Former Indian PM Manmohan Singh in an article published in ‘The Hindu’ on March 6 has put things in their right perspective. Perhaps some excerpts from it warrant to be reproduced here.

Noting that he was writing it with a heavy heart, he observed “The truth is that the current situation is very grim and morose. The India that we know and cherish is slipping away fast. Willfully stoked communal tensions, gross economic mismanagement and an external health shock are threatening to derail India’s progress and standing.

“It is time to confront the harsh reality of the grave risks we face as a nation and address them squarely and sufficiently. India faces imminent danger from social disharmony, I deeply worry that this potent combination of risks may not only rupture the soul of India but also diminish our global standing as an economic and democratic power in the world.

“Delhi has been subjected to extreme violence over the past few weeks. We have lost nearly 50 of our fellow Indians for no reason. Several hundred people have suffered injuries. Communal tensions have been stoked and flames of religious intolerance fanned by unruly sections of our society, including the political class. Institutions of law and order have abandoned their dharma to protect citizens. Institutions of justice and the fourth pillar of democracy, the media, have also failed us.

“Every act of sectarian violence is a blemish on Mahatma Gandhi’s India. Just in a matter of few years, India has slid rapidly from being a global showcase of a model of economic development through liberal democratic methods to a strife ridden majoritarian state in economic despair.

“It is my belief that the government must quickly embark on a three point plan. First, it should focus all energies and efforts on containing the COVID-19 threat and prepare adequately. Two, it should withdraw or amend the Citizenship Act, end the toxic social climate and foster national unity. Three, it should put together a detailed and meticulous fiscal stimulus plan to boost consumption demand and revive the economy.”

The noteworthy thing is that, while lamenting the killings as a result of the communal violence, he has clearly said that the communal tensions had been fomented and religious intolerance was fanned by the unruly sections of society, including the political class, which was an implied reference to the BJP. He has also blamed the law-enforcement agencies for not protecting the citizens also demanding withdrawal of the CAA. Manmohan Singh has admitted that the steps taken by the BJP government have vitiated the secular spirit of India and the sectarian violence was a stigma on Gandhi’s India.

The BJP government like Hitler has first started targeting minorities within India, particularly Muslims and also shown its intentions to pursue the implementation of the Hindutva philosophy even beyond its borders. The unilateral ending of the special status of IOK, bifurcation of it into two territories and their inclusion in the Indian Union as well as the aggressive posture towards Pakistan as demonstrated on February 26 last year, are ranting manifestations of its likely repercussion in regards to regional peace and security.

The world community, particularly the UN as a peace-making body, needs to take immediate notice of what India is doing to minorities and what it has done in IOK in blatant defiance of UN resolutions – before it is too late. Merely reiterating that the solution to the Kashmir issue must be found in accordance with the UN charter and the relevant resolutions of the UNSC is not going to help. Practical measures need to be taken in that regard.

The writer is a freelance


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