WHILE India has often tooted its own horn as the ‘world’s largest democracy’ — being supported in this endeavour by its allies and commercial partners across the globe despite evidence to the contrary — voices are finally being raised about its descent into communalism. As per US-based rights watchdog Freedom House, India under Narendra Modi’s watch has dropped from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ status. The Hindutva-infused dispensation in New Delhi is “driving India itself towards authoritarianism” says the watchdog’s report, while adding that “the ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims” with reference to the spread of Covid-19 in the country last year, which was blamed on Muslims. To observers of India, none of this is new, as under BJP rule that country has begun the dangerous transformation into a Hindu rashtra, where other religions/cultures are to be pushed to the margins or excluded from national life in order to create a ‘pure’ polity. Indeed, the BJP has transformed its ideological shibboleths into state policy by introducing discriminatory citizenship laws designed to disenfranchise India’s Muslims, along with letting murderous bands of cow vigilantes go unpunished. Moreover, New Delhi’s brutal campaign in India-held Kashmir has seriously tarnished its claims of being a democracy.
The transformation from a secular republic into an exclusivist rashtra began in earnest in 1992, when the Babri Masjid was torn down by a mob of Hindu zealots to make way for a Ram mandir. Ironically, yesterday’s extremists are India’s principal policymakers today, hence the recognition by right-thinking people and organisations worldwide that India has become a difficult place to live for its minorities. While the shock troops of Hindutva will renounce the report as ‘intervention’ in India’s internal affairs and try and justify the hate-filled campaigns undertaken by the BJP, the fact is that New Delhi can no longer hide the grotesque wrongs that are being committed against India’s Muslims and other minority communities under the BJP/RSS combine. More international actors should have the courage to call a spade a spade.
Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2021