India against its liar-in-chief

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Rajiv Kumar

Rajiv Kumar is a professor at the University of Heidelberg. He served on the faculty of Kashmir University from 1984-1990. He can be reached at
Rajiv Kumar

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The past months in Indian politics have proved to be an eon; suddenly the all-conquering and all-powerful Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been reduced to his pitiable caricature. The tidal wave against him was accurately captured by a headline in the Asia Times, “Indians rise up against their liar-in-chief”.

Only last May, Modi had led his party to an unprecedented second consecutive victory in elections to the Indian parliament. It is now easier to state that with that benefit of hindsight that the thumping majority mandated to him in the last election had in it scripted his downfall as that victory had come laced with an unbridled hubris.

The second term also marked the formalization of a central role for his lieutenant of undisputedly dubious character, the Amit Shah, who until then had been operating outside the government as the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Once inside the government, the duo of Modi-Shah, of Gujarat mayhems of 2002 fame wasted no time in embarking on social engineering on a diverse Indian society. They were emboldened by the newly gained majority in the upper house of the Indian parliament through increased BJP numbers and the cravenness of many members of the opposition parties.

Their first assault was reserved for Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in the India union with a disputed status. Shah piloted a bill in the Indian parliament and through a quintessential legal sleight of hand neutralized the article 370 of the Indian constitution, which had guaranteed the autonomous status to the state.

The Indian government even went ahead and dismembered the state and reduced it into two inferior appendages of the union government. Together with that act, the Indian government unleashed an unprecedented repressive regime in Kashmir involving indiscriminate arrests, tortures, complete isolation of the local population and deprivation of access to communications, health services, education and in the process inflicting a lasting damage on the local economy for nefarious reasons or un-reasons. Kashmir and its status as the Muslim majority state had always stuck as a sore point for the Hindutva ideology-driven Modi government.

While act on Kashmir drew sharp condemnation with pronounced denunciation from International media, the Indian population, for the most part, remained ambivalent, disingenuously combining their disapproval with their profusions for the integrity of India. It might be added that the Indian excesses in Kashmir had predated the Modi government in India.

Indians didn’t realize at that time, for Modi-Shah, Kashmir was just the start of an experiment on social engineering, they had to move on to their next targets, the Indian Muslims. Once again it was Amit Shah in his avatar as the union interior minister introduced a bill called Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that was duly approved by both houses of the parliament and rubber-stamped into an act by the Indian president, despite illegality, immorality and obnoxiousness written all over it.

The innocuous-sounding act made provisions that the persecuted persons from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh can be made Indian citizens provided they are not Muslims. Indian constitution has the word ‘secularism’ in its preamble and the other articles of the constitution clearly state that there can be no discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation. The ominousness of the act becomes accentuated when read together with the intended national register for citizens (NRC).

With a law already in place that declares that all non-Muslims are by default Indian citizens, the onus falls on 1.7 million Indian Muslims to prove their citizenship. The ultimate aim remains for them to make Muslims second-class citizens or more like, after the passage of Nuremberg laws, Nazis had declared Jews while still subjects of the German state were no longer citizens with full rights.

That perhaps proved a line crossed too far by the Indian government and for the first time a revolt erupted against the Indian government. Only time will tell how far that revolt can stem the creeping viciousness that Modi led government has wrought on the Indian society and played havoc with every Indian institution that had been vanguards for maintenance of rule of law.

Those institutions be it of the judiciary, education, finance, social sciences have been subjected to frontal attacks by Modi government with fundamental aim of debunking all checks and balances in order to foster an agenda of divisiveness and hatred. Nothing else can exemplify better than a morally bankrupt and indisputably illegal Indian Supreme Court ruling on the land dispute involving Babri Masjid, where those who in contravention of law indulged in demolition were rewarded with the land. But then that was a part of in progress anti-Muslim agenda.

While in its first term the Modi government due to constrained majority in the upper house of the parliament could not start tinkering legally with the social fabric of the country, it didn’t mean they did not act. Instead, Modi outsourced that task to the army of his hoodlums. That is when people were lynched for eating beef or transporting cattle or for simply being Muslims.

Intellectuals, who caused inconvenience or questioned their motives were either killed or arrested on flimsy pretexts. Big question remains why would anyone be surprised with what has happened or is happening under a government led by Narendra Modi with a life long record of deceit and hatred.

It would also be foolish to forget the origin of Modi from the cauldron of communalism, bigotry and hatred. His ascent in Gujarat as the chief minister was through deceit and chicanery and his continuation was predicated on the killings of over two thousand Muslims under his watch in the riots that he instigated and then withheld deployment of security forces.

Amit Shah, while a state minister in Gujarat under Modi was arrested on the charges of extortion, kidnapping and murder. Those are the people now shepherding India, whom people in the last elections voted with gusto for that very reason. Otherwise, the economy that they had promised never materialized or rather the Modi government has run Indian economy into mud and Indian reputation all over the world at its nadir.

While the revolt that has started against the thuggish government in its attempt to alter the basic character of the country has many promises but it would be foolhardy to discount the machinations of rogues like Modi and Shah. Within the global context, these are strange times with demagogues and rogues holding power in places far afar. Maybe 2020 brings in the much needed course correction!

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