What Modi’s landslide election victory means for already terrified Indian Muslims?

Indian Muslims1

– Washington Post:  Modi’s win is a victory for a form of religious nationalism that views India as a fundamentally Hindu nation and seeks to jettison the secularism promoted by the country’s founders.

– The Guardian: Indian politics has likely entered a new era of Hindu nationalist hegemony fuelled by Modi’s extraordinary popularity.

– New York Times: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the most powerful and divisive leaders India.

These are some of the headlines of leading newspapers about the landslide victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party securing a commanding parliamentary majority in the largest democratic exercise in history.

Media reports said that that Indian-television estimates and the official government tally showed BJP and its allies were set to win more than 340 seats — a number that will allow them to form the majority in India’s lower house of parliament.

Reuters said Modi’s re-election reinforces a global trend of right-wing populists sweeping to victory, from the United States to Brazil and Italy, often after adopting harsh positions on protectionism, immigration and defense.

Nalin Kohli, a senior BJP official, claimed his party had picked up votes from Muslims, especially Muslim women. “We are the party of power, we are the flavour of the season. It is the aspirations of 1 billion-plus people that have elected us.”

It is the first time in almost five decades that an Indian premier has been voted back with increased majority.

However, some of the BJB critics accusing  it of making India a more divisive country, particularly for Muslims and other minorities, many are asking what happens next for India.

Professor Santosh Kumar Rai of Delhi University said: “Certainly a second term means an ideological victory, even if it is more a personality cult. With a [BJP] majority, a rightist agenda with all the institutions of the state under its control, the party will be more likely to convert India into a majoritarian state.

The Guardian said the emphatic victory will be greeted with dismay among some members of religious minority groups, who have voiced fears that a returned BJP government would be further emboldened to prosecute its Hindu nationalist agenda.

A Modi victory puts 200 million Indian Muslims in danger

On Tuesday The Nation published an article titled: “A Modi Victory Puts India’s 200 Million Muslims in Danger.” Writer of the article is Ruchira Gupta is a visiting professor at New York University and founder of the Indian anti-sex-trafficking organization, Apne Aap Women Worldwide. Ruchira Gupta writes:

“Thursday, India will announce election results that could put the country’s 200 million Muslims in danger….Human Rights Watch reports that between May 2015 and December 2018, cow vigilantes lynched at least 44 people—including 36 Muslims—suspected of eating beef or trading in cattle. In one case in 2016, a group beat to death a Muslim cattle trader and a 12-year-old boy traveling to an animal fair in Jharkhand. Their badly bruised bodies were found hanging from a tree with their hands tied behind them. Instead of trying to keep Muslims safe, the government announced a national commission to protect cows in February 2019. Police often stalled prosecutions of the attackers, while several BJP politicians publicly justified the attacks. Commentators accuse Modi of normalizing bigotry by refusing to condemn such acts. The Pew Research Center has ranked India the fourth-worst country in the world for religious intolerance—after Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq.”

Ruchira Gupta argues that for many ordinary Indians Modi’s policies were an economic nightmare…. Between 2014 and 2016, 36,320 farmers killed themselves—an average of 33 suicides per day. “A massive student and farmers movement grew, and Modi’s government retaliated. Students and professors were falsely arrested, the press was muzzled, and members of the opposition were charged with corruption. One journalist, two writers, and a dissenting judge were killed”.

To justify the state terror, Modi turned to Islamophobia with disastrous consequences across society. Mobs marched into private residences in search of young people in inter-faith relationships. These self-styled “anti-Romeo” squads terrorized Muslim and Dalit youth for befriending Hindu girls and detained hundreds of young men from minority groups. In June, a mob in Kashmir beat police officer to death after an altercation said Ruchira Gupta adding:

“Vigilantes raped Dalit, Muslim, and Adivasi girls with impunity. The lawyer representing the family of an 8-year-old Muslim girl, who was allegedly raped by the caretaker of a Hindu temple, was forced to withdraw after repeated threats and intimidation by BJP leaders. The father of a 17-year-old Dalit girl who says a BJP leader raped her was arrested on false charges and died mysteriously in a police station.”

About the growing extremism under Modi, Ruchira Gupta writes:

One candidate for Parliament in particular illustrates the growing extremism of the BJP. In Bhopal, a city of 1.8 million people, Modi personally endorsed Pragya Singh Thakur, who is out on bail after almost nine years in jail for alleged involvement in a terrorist bombing that killed six Muslims.

Thakur’s main election plank appears to be revenge against Indian Muslims for 400-year-old humiliations. At her campaign launch, she boasted that 27 years ago she helped demolish a 16th-century (Babri) mosque in northern India: “I climbed atop the structure and broke it, and I feel extremely proud that God gave me this opportunity.”

Thakur, like Modi, is a proponent of a far-right militant ideology called Hindutva, which was invented in the 1920s by an all-male vigilante group called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Its founders corresponded with Adolf Hitler and met with Benito Mussolini in 1929 to model their party along fascist lines. A member of the group assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

On the campaign trail, Thakur said Gandhi’s assassin “was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot.”

By nominating an alleged terrorist as a lawmaker, Modi has made his party’s agenda clear. He’s shifted his rhetoric from fighting corruption to generating hate.

Thakur defeated her opponent, Digvijaya Singh, a two-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state and a senior member of the main opposition Congress party.

Polarizing campaign

Modi and other party leaders frequently portrayed the political opposition as being in league with Muslim majority Pakistan, and called on voters to honor soldiers who died in the February attack by supporting the BJP, the Los Angeles Times said.

“Modi and Amit Shah (BJP President)  ran perhaps the most polarizing campaign in Indian history, an acknowledgement that they didn’t think their policy record was adequate,” said Irfan Nooruddin, director of the Georgetown India Initiative at Georgetown University.

Their tactics “showed a willingness to pander to the most extreme elements of the Hindu right wing,” Nooruddin said. “A big win this week will be interpreted as vindication of this strategy, and, minimally, that there was no cost to the polarization caused over the past five years.”

Academic Manindra Nath Thakur, who teaches at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Al Jazeera that Modi will face virtually no opposition in his second straight term as prime minister. He also said that  Modi’s win means that the discourse of forming a Hindu state will remain very dominant.

Al Jazeera reported that as results suggesting a massive BJP win began to emerge, India’s Muslims said they were worried about the future of secularism in the country.

“This election shows that the BJP’s anti Muslim campaign has succeeded,” shopkeeper Faizan Zafar, 25, told Al Jazeera in New Delhi. “This time it looks like Muslims will be finished and they will declare a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (theocratic Hindu state).”

According to AFP, the campaign, estimated to have cost more than $7 billion, was awash with insults — Modi was likened to Hitler and a “gutter insect” — as well as fake news in Facebook and WhatsApp’s biggest markets.

BJP outspent Congress by six times on Facebook and Google advertising, data showed, and by as much as 20 times overall, according to Reuters.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com


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