By Faizah Gilani
For secular India, and for all those that oppose bigotry and hatred in all its forms, these are indeed worrying times. The India that we are seeing today is Modi’s India. It is far from Nehru’s India that strived for secularism. Since Modi’s success in 2014, India has seen a strong wave of Hindu nationalism sweep across the country, emboldening all those with hateful views, and those that seek to destroy the fabric of secular India.
Modi and his BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) ran an election campaign based on anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiment. This is unsurprising since bigotry and Pakistan bashing have been the BJP’s trump card for votes, and it has paid off. Modi’s promise of economic growth and progress fell flat, and yet he has been re-elected with a comfortable victory. This says a lot about where secular India stands today.
Under Modi’s leadership, India has seen tensions between communities, and an alarming rise in hate crimes against religious minorities, Muslims in particular. There have been several cases reported in the international media of mob lynches by cow vigilantes, and migrants being targeted because of their faith. The case of Shaukat Ali in Assam was reported by the BBC, and was plastered all over social media, catching the attention of people worldwide.
Shaukat Ali was beaten and tortured by a mob, in an unprovoked attack. He was then forced to eat pork, as he sat on his knees, with the mob surrounding him. This is just one incident of many, but it highlights what religious minorities are facing in Modi’s India. Hate has been normalised by the ruling party, emboldening people to carry out acts of hate and violence. The type of inflammatory and provocative language used by BJP ministers during the election campaign fanned the flames of hatred, and with the BJP’s success in the election, it only gives a stamp of approval to those that seek to further divide communities.
It is important to highlight that most BJP ministers belong to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang) a right-wing organisation that is against all religious minorities and wants India to become a Hindu republic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is a lifetime member of the RSS. So, to expect the Prime Minister or his ministers to stand up and defend religious minorities when they themselves are connected to a right-wing group, is a tough ask. Today there is a real concern for the safety of religious minorities, who fear more attacks and hate crimes.
But these are not just troubling times for secular India. Modi’s re-election means doom and gloom for the issue of Kashmir as well. Modi’s approach to Kashmir has been an aggressive one. His policies have been very hard-line, to pander to his base, and to secure the Hindu votes. Along with anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiments, the issue of Kashmir was also used as a selling point during BJP’s election campaign. And it paid off. Therefore, it would be unsurprising if Modi was to carry on with his aggressive policies in Kashmir.
The use of excessive force, the placement of Kashmiri leaders and activists under house arrest, and the use of pellet guns that has been strongly condemned by Amnesty International, all of this will most likely carry on during Modi’s second term. He has gained immense support from his base for showing heavy handed tactics with Kashmir, so chances of any positive change are highly unlikely. And this will also mean India continuing to snub Pakistan on the diplomatic front, which would suit Modi and his party just fine.
Snubbing Pakistan would mean closing the doors of dialogue on Kashmir, something that Modi and his party seem more than happy to do. Since his success in 2014, Narendra Modi has shown no genuine interest in resolving the issue of Kashmir. His approach towards Pakistan’s recent invitation to resume dialogue has been rejected. India’s unresponsive and cold approach towards Pakistan means that the Pakistan government will have to go solo and push the issue of Kashmir on all international platforms, alone.
Narendra Modi has been elevated to superstar status in India. From the common man and woman to India’s film fraternity, Modi continues to enjoy popularity. He also seems to have spell bound the world as well, with international leaders falling over to join hands with him. But Narendra Modi is destroying the fabric of secular India, and he is creating a rift between communities. Modi’s success also means more uncertainty and unrest for the people of Indian occupied Kashmir, and his aggressive approach towards Pakistan could prove to be dangerous for the region. Modi’s re-election spells trouble, and only time well tell us the extent of damage it will cause.