India today is in frantic haste to solidify its position as a champion of Hindutva, which loosely translated means upholding rightwing religious bigotry at any cost.
It’s on an upward trajectory following the rise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of a controversial hawk Narendra Modi.
In their haste to turn India around from a legacy of anticolonial freedom struggles, Modi and the BJP are pushing to rebrand India as an exclusive extremist Hindutva domain.
And despite these efforts being considered risky and unwise, Modi is evidently basking in the glory of adoration and solidarity by none other than the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
Also while previously lurking in the background but now in full glare of media spotlights as unflinching allies of BJP’s rightwing ideology, are Apartheid Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi monarchy’s Mohamed bin Salman.
To them, Modi is on the right trajectory. They share a common resentment of Islam which they deliberately frame in political language designed to mislead and depict Muslim opposition as “terrorism”.
While Netanyahu is highly skilled in such devious political chicanery, Trump and MbS are fast catching on as indeed is Modi. Yet, knowing that the stakes are high and racing against time to accomplish supremacy of racial and religious divisive policies, Modi has promoted himself as the savior of the world’s entire Hindu community.
His latest outrageous move is an attempt to limit the granting of nationality to non-Muslim refugees only. By excluding Muslims, the bill, known as Citizenship Amendment Bill, is viewed by analysts of India’s secular constitution, as a ploy to render Muslims stateless in their own country. The situation in Assam bears testimony to this tragic violation of fundamental human rights.
Part of the BJP’s attempt to rewrite India’s history is to erase the idea of India welcoming refugees of all castes and creeds. Historical accounts which underpin the fact that despite centuries-old traditions of absorbing migrants and embracing them as their own, are under threat by Modi’s fanaticism. The Citizen Bill categorically excludes Muslims.
Critics of the bill warn that the move is a brazen BJP plot to marginalize India’s Muslim population, which makes up about 15 percent of 1.3 billion-strong population.
Some commentators have argued that the BJP thrives on policies of polarization to advance its supremacist agenda. They point to a type of emotional blackmail to exploit religious sentiments on sensitive issues such as the Babri Masjid: you either for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya or against it.
Likewise, you are either for the icon of Hindutva, Narendra Modi or against him. After all, the Gujarat massacre of Muslims in 2002, raised his iconic stature as a warrior determined to ethnically cleanse India of “terrorists” – a euphemism for Muslims.
The case of Kashmir is a glaring example of how the BJP has set out to target and colonize Muslim-majority territories. Having stripped Kashmir of autonomy, Modi instituted Israeli-style military crackdowns by laying siege of the valley.
Those who argue in defense of Modi’s abrogation of Article 370, base their rationale on BJP propaganda which claims that it is an “internal affair”. That this line has effectively prevented countries such as South Africa from adopting measures in solidarity with Kashmir, is an indication of Modi’s reliance on the shield of “sovereignty” to ward off critics.
This, however, does not prevent investigative journalists and human rights activists from undertaking visits to Kashmir in order to probe the current and long term effects of the oppressive military lockdown.
The violence flowing from BJP’s unilateral occupation and siege is a reminder of the atrocities committed against Palestinians by Modi’s chum Netanyahu, who strangely is admired by Bollywood’s leading stars.
A shameful set of tragic events triggered by the rise of Hindutva power has not only led to mindless violence against Kashmir’s Muslim majority, but the illegal restrictions including a total shutdown of the internet have also contributed to their existing trauma and angst.
While Modi is racing to reshape India as an exclusive Hindutva domain, his pillars of external support are beginning to crumble: Trump facing impeachment and Netanyahu facing corruption charges.
These developments cannot be a good omen for him, even though Saudi Arabia has given Modi the go-ahead to do as he pleases in Kashmir. Ultimately his iconic status will face internal rebellion for placing India on a collision course with its own destiny.