Every day and in every part of India, hundreds of thousands of people -- mainly young people -- gather on the streets to express their anger at the government. Their protests, like those of the protests in Chile, emerged out of one particular grievance but then have cascaded outward. They are angry at the government's attempt to define citizenship in a narrow and bigoted way; but they are also angry at the arrogance of the government and at the disastrous way in which the government has managed the economy.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a far-right political organization that has intimate roots to India's fascist currents. The BJP's parent party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was born in 1925 with close links to Italian fascism. Both the BJP and the RSS believe in a doctrine known as Hindutva, which is essentially to promote the supremacy of Hindus over other communities inside India.
The animus of the BJP and the RSS is directed against India's Muslims. The way that the BJP government defined the refugee act (the Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA) and the citizenship register (National Register of Citizens, or NRC) appears directly to target Muslims, and to define Indian nationality in opposition to Muslims.
Given India's population, minority communities are considerably large. India's Muslim population, for instance, is 15 percent of the total population, which amounts to more than 200 million people. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia, and Pakistan and India essentially tied for second place; India's Muslimsby themselvesform the eighth-largest country in the world after Brazil and ahead of Nigeria.
The demographic makeup of India necessitates that the country's laws and traditions accommodate all of India's cultural and social diversity. The fascistic viewpoint of the BJP and the RSS is not only immoral and unjust, but it is simply impractical.
The upsurge of the population against this immoral anti-Muslim posture of the government has surprised the BJP leadership. Modi and his cabinet have become used to pushing a hard-right agenda. When Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, he oversaw a pogrom in 2002 that killed more than 2,000 Muslims and disenfranchised many thousands more. The BJP's agenda was clear then; it did not take the new bills to show the face of the BJP's animosity to India's diverse social world. That was apparent in 2002.
Indeed, it was apparent in 1992, when Modi's seniors in the BJP and the RSS egged on mobs to destroy a 16th-century mosque in the town of Ayodhya (on its ruins the Indian Supreme Court had earlier this year allowed a temple to be built, a vindication of the hooliganism of 1992). Since 2014, when Modi became the prime minister, violence against Muslims and against oppressed castes (Dalits) has become routine.
For historical reasons, the borders between India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar have been porous. These are lines drawn by colonial rulers that made no sense to the people whose lives were divided by them. People cross these borders as they have for centuries, but they also cross them to flee oppression. Because of the violence from the government in Myanmar, over a million people of the Rohingya community have fled the country for Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. The BJP's Amit Shahwho is India's home ministerwent after the 40,000 Rohingya refugees who are in India. He wanted them deported to Myanmar.
In September 2018, at an election rally in West Bengal, Shah spoke of the migrants from Bangladesh in the most horrid language. "Infiltrators are like termites in the soil of Bengal," he said. "A Bharatiya Janata Party government will pick up infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal." This language of "termites" and "infiltrators" is deeply provocative, and very dangerous.
In Assam, an Indian state that borders Bangladesh, the government constructed detention or concentration camps, where it held those whom it wanted to deport. Amnesty International's report from November 2018 provides extensive documentation of the existence of these camps, and of their illegality. The report quotes BJP official Shiladitya Dev's remarks about migrants being involved in "criminal activities," and Modi's comment that people are entering Assam from Bangladesh daily. "The underlying hyperbolic," the report says, "seems to be aimed at dehumanizing Bengali speaking people." The Indian Supreme Court also intervened to ask for the detainees to be released.
A clever person has set up a website called Modi Lies. For good reason the makers of the site have not given their names or said anything about themselves. A new report shows that during Modi's tenure there have been about 200 documented cases of attacks on journalists who tell the truth about the Modi government; 40 journalists -- at least -- have been killed in this period.
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