India rapidly losing its secular veneer: US congressman

Published August 31, 2019
Levin notes that “Modi’s moves with respect to Kashmir, while alarming, do not come out of left field”. — Twitter
Levin notes that “Modi’s moves with respect to Kashmir, while alarming, do not come out of left field”. — Twitter

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Narendra Modi puts secular India in grave danger with moves like revoking article 370, which gave Kashmir a special protected status, says Congressman Andy Levin.

Mr Levin, a Michigan Democrat, also notes that Mr “Modi’s moves with respect to Kashmir, while alarming, do not come out of left field”.

In an opinion piece he shared on Twitter, the US lawmaker points out that in 2005 the Bush administration denied Mr Modi entry into the United States for not preventing the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat.

In one of two reports it released on Kashmir this week, the US rights groups Human Rights Watch reminded the Indian government that in Kashmir its “priority should be to protect civil liberties”.

The other report notes that the almost month-long siege of the Kashmir valley “infringes basic freedoms, affects essential services and harms economy”.

In a similar report, another advocacy group, Amnesty International called on the Indian government to “immediately release all political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir and put an end to the deliberate silencing of voices in the region”.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) notes that Mr Modi is trying to “project himself as the regional strongman” and he also wants to “galvanise Hindu nationalist support around that strongman image”.

This and other reports also note Mr Modi’s links to Hindu extremists, adding that the Indian prime minister and his government have been fanning anti-Muslim feelings across India.

But Washington’s diplomatic circles also compare this with Pakistan’s deliberate effort to avoid stirring religious sentiments over Kashmir.

At a recent diplomatic event, several Western diplomats noted that while Pakistanis had been protesting the Indian action almost daily, this time the mosque did not appear to be the centre of such protests.

They also noted that so far Pakistani religious parties have been absent from pro-Kashmir rallies and meetings.

“There has been no religious rhetoric, no call for Jihad and no display of arms,” said a Western diplomat at a recent event.

Other diplomats said that Pakistan seemed committed to its pledge to keep extremists under control and not to allow them to use its territory for violent actions against neighboring states.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan told reporters in Washington that Pakistan and AJK would not allow India to link the Kashmiri movement for freedom with terrorism.

“We will stay alert to ensure that India does not succeed in doing so,” he said. “There’s no room for terrorism in our peaceful struggle.”

The Indian prime minister, however, appeared to be drawing inspiration from his own religious conviction to change India from a secular to a Hindu state, said another diplomat.

The diplomat noted that the BJP government was forcing Muslims across India to prove their sincerity to the country by publicly condemning Pakistan. Their statements are then taped and played on the social media.

On Friday, India’s Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar accused the country’s Muslims of backing Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Mr Javadekar also used this news conference to attack former Congress president Rahul Gandhi for giving Pakistan a “handle” to target India by criticising the government’s Kashmir policy.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2019

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