Saad Rasool |

One year on from Modi’s revocation of Article 370—resulting in the illegal annexation of Kashmir and the imposition of a draconian curfew across the valley—the world seems to be waking up to the reality of BJP’s fascist Hindutva regime. A year ago, before Modi’s adventurism in Kashmir, an oblivious global community had bought into the façade of a ‘shining India’. For the preceding two decades, India had been marketed as the very picture of tolerance, democratic values, and growing economic power. Especially, when juxtaposed with its immediate neighbours, India seemed like an oasis in the midst of a region gripped with chaos and intolerance.

All that, now, seems like a distant memory. Over the past year, Modi’s fascist regime has disenfranchised the Valley, revoked the citizenship of millions of Muslims, lynched people on the streets of Delhi and Gujrat, imposed a ‘police state’ model in Assam, mismanaged the coronavirus epidemic, been kicked out its strategic relationship with Iran (Chabahar), drummed up war hysteria across its ludicrous media, and lost its territory (along with two dozen soldiers) in a conflict with China. In all, the idea of a ‘shining India’ is now effectively dead. And, in its place, a new ‘intolerant India’ has become the hallmark of Modi’s regime.

Truth be told, India’s existential suicide didn’t just come about one year ago. It has merely matured to this point, through concerted efforts of Hindutva racism over the course of the past several years.

Let’s pause to examine this claim.

At the turn of the century, a tolerant and burgeoning Indian society was poised to become the next big thing in Asia. We watched, enviously from across the border, as India’s facade of an inclusive democracy won allies across the world. Just as Pakistan was getting swallowed by the menace of intolerance, extremism, and in-fighting amidst different sections of the society, India was accosting the world to its many opportunities. Kashmir had been all but forgotten. Even the Muslims of mainland India had turned a blind eye to the atrocities in the valley, choosing instead to participate in the Indian dream. The policy of projecting Pakistan as a haven for terrorism and intolerance was working. And the new America-India strategic partnership was bearing geopolitical fruits.

In walks Modi. Once known as the butcher of Gujrat, Modi had rebranded himself as a mascot for ‘incredible India’. But, in reality it was just that: branding. Simmering under the carefully constructed veneer of democratic ideology, Modi’s Hindutva ideology was waiting for an appropriate moment to strike. And then, during his reelection campaign, the moment presented itself. Under the false-flag pretext of Pulwama attack, Modi decided to attack Pakistan in February of 2019. It was just the ‘first drop of the ocean’ he would say later. Nothing short of ‘Akhund Bharat’ was the aim. His energised right-wing Hindu base loved the idea, giving him an overwhelming majority in the May 2019 elections.

This victory gave the Hindutva goons a mandate to take even bolder steps for entrenchment of their ideology of hate. Next came the long-promised goal of revoking Kashmir’s autonomous status, in August of 2019. And with it, the wheels started to come off Modi’s Hindutva wagon. India’s right-wing fascist ideology was at display for the entire world to see. Even within India, the saner voices started to question Modi publicly. Muslims, Christians, even lesser caste Hindus, started to view their own state as enemy of the people.

But the fascist Modi did not stop here.

Next came the even more controversial Citizenship Amendment Act—a law that revokes citizenship of Muslim immigrants of India. As millions of people gathered on the streets to protest this move, across India, Modi doubled-down on his bet. He allowed his right-wing party goons to terrorise and torture Muslims. People across the world started to recognise that Kashmir was not a one-off thing. Modi was racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-minorities. The resulting clashes across India, especially in and around Delhi, displaced hundreds of thousands of minority individuals (mostly Muslims) from their homes, which had been burnt to the ground by Hindutva goons. Overnight, these minorities became the largest group of internally displaced people in Asia. India’s sham secularism stood exposed in all its shame.

Modi had not yet recovered from this, when the coronavirus arrived on the shores of India. And suddenly, India’s soft underbelly in terms of poverty, displacement, unemployment and a weak social security structure was visible for everyone to see. And making matters worse, a large chunk of India’s population (some 500 million minority people) saw Modi’s government as their enemy.

Amidst this chaos, Modi’s government made its next big mistake: shutting down India with a mere 4-hour notice. What followed was a mass exodus of the working class. Millions of families, left without food or shelter, who decided to walk (literally) hundreds of miles across the span of India. Videos from this exodus show a cesspool, in which coronavirus would spread like wildfire. The world watched aghast, in horror, as Modi ensured that coronavirus is carried throughout the poor segments of India’s diaspora.

Facing the inevitable spread of coronavirus across India, Modi’s racist regime turned to the tactics it knows best: blaming the Muslims for their problem. Singling out one gathering of (foolish) Muslims in Delhi, the Tablighi Jamaat, where several participants tested positive for coronavirus, Modi’s Hindutva government decided to turn the epidemic into a purely communal issue. Phrases such as ‘Corona Jihad’ and ‘Tablighi Jamaat Virus’, were used by Modi’s ministers. The abominable right-wing Indian media was all too happy to jump on this bandwagon. And overnight, in India, coronavirus became another weapon at the hands of Modi’s fascist regime, to turn peaceful Indians against one another.

India was still reeling from the (ongoing) effects of coronavirus, when Modi attempted to direct the people’s attention by reverting to his ‘go to’ strategy of drumming up conflict with Pakistan. To this end, his government started to claim that they plan to take over all of Kashmir, through force, ‘including Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Aksai Chin’. And that, in this way, they will cut CPEC from its ‘jugular’.

This was a step too far. It not only threatened Pakistan, but also China’s interest in the region. And China was willing to defend it with its military muscle. Consequently, prompted by Modi’s expansionist agenda, China decided to place its troops in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Lake area (from where India had plans to approach Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan). The resulting conflict cost India more than 2 dozen soldiers, along with substantial territory. As the conflict flared, China also used its ‘soft power’ to turn other Indian neighbours against Modi (including Nepal and Bhutan), while ousting India from the strategic Chabahar-Zahedan project. And none of the global powers that Modi had relied upon for support, have come to its aid.

Resultantly, over the course of the past one year, Modi and his fascist colleagues have brought India to its knees. The India from last August was strong, progressive and well-poised to make its mark on the global stage. Just one year later, Modi’s India is seen as a fascist state, which persecutes its minorities, has mismanaged coronavirus, and started a regional conflict that it cannot win.

When Modi was elected to power for the second term, everyone had expected that he would implement right-wing policies; however, no one had expected that he would bring India to the edge of intolerant fascism, and then jump off the cliff.

Whenever dispassionate history of this period of India is eventually written, it will remember Modi as the man who single-handedly unravelled the dream of ‘incredible India’.

Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at [email protected], or Twitter: @Ch_SaadRasool. The article originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with author’s permission.

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